Today’s Texas Longhorn Cattle are descendants of the first cattle in the New World, brought by Christopher Columbus and the Spanish colonists. Texas Longhorns are known for their diverse coloring, and can be any color or mix of colors, but dark red and white color mixes are the most dominant. They are hardy cows with much resistance to disease and have a high drought-stress tolerance.
Over the next two centuries the Spanish moved the cattle north, arriving in the area that would become Texas near the end of the 17th century. The cattle escaped or were turned loose on the open range, where they remained mostly feral for the next two centuries. Over several generations, descendants of these cattle evolved high feed- and drought-stress tolerance and other "hardy" characteristics that have gained Longhorns reputation The leaner longhorn beef was not as attractive in an era where tallow was highly prized, and the longhorn's ability to survive on the poor vegetation of the open range was no longer as much of an issue. Other breeds demonstrated traits more highly valued by the modern rancher, such as the ability to gain weight quickly. The Texas Longhorn stock slowly dwindled, until in 1927 the breed was saved from near extinction by enthusiasts from the United States Forest Service, who collected a small herd of stock to breed on the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Lawton, Oklahoma. The breed also received significant attention after a longhorn named "Bevo" was adopted as the mascot of The University of Texas at Austin in 1917, and an image of the animal became commonly associated with the school's sports teams, known as the Texas Longhorns.
A few years later, J. Frank Dobie and others gathered small herds to keep in Texas state parks. Oilman Sid W. Richardson helped finance the project. They were cared for largely as curiosities, but the stock's longevity, resistance to disease and ability to thrive on marginal pastures quickly revived the breed as beef stock and for their link to Texas history.