According to a published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, BEVO's ancestors could have had the bumper sticker "I Wasn't Born In Texas, But I Got Here As Quick As I Could," slapped on their rumps.
The report states that the Texas Longhorn is a direct decedent of the cattle brought over by Christopher Columbus.
UT biology professor David Hillis and doctoral student Emily Jane McTavish joined colleagues from the University of Missouri in tracing the genetic history of the Texas Longhorn. Their findings show that the Longhorns ancestors made it over to the New World on Columbus' second journey in 1493, but didn't make their way to Texas until the end of the 17th century.
The study states that the longhorn is a "pure" descendant of cattle from the Iberian peninsula with approximately 85 percent of its genome being "taurine," coming from the domesticated aurochs that that roamed the Middle East 8,000-10,000 years ago. Longhorns look similar to other breeds such as Hereford and Angus, which came to Europe from the Middle East.
The other 15 percent of the genome is "indicine," from India.
Once in the southwest, the cattle were either turned loose or escaped and developed survival traits such as the longer horns stretching 7 feet, as well as getting leaner and tougher to survive the heat. The breed finally got the name Texas Longhorn after the civil war when it was first rounded up and bred for its beef.
After a while the Texas Longhorn was in danger of becoming extinct.
"A lot of the value of cattle at that time had to do with the fat they had," said Hillis, "because the primary lighting source people had was candles, made of tallow, and Texas Longhorns have very low fat content. Ranchers began fencing off the range and importing breeds from Europe that had higher fat content."
"That's when Americans began developing their taste for fatty beef, so then the other cattle became valuable in that respect as well. The only reason the Longhorns didn't go extinct was because half a dozen or so ranchers kept herds going even though they knew that these other breeds were more valuable in some sense. They appreciated that the Longhorns were hardier, more self-sufficient."
Hillis says he has longhorn cattle on his ranch and he believes that they are making a comeback as lean grass-fed beef, seen as a healthier alternative.
One bright spot for BEVO's brethren - Hillis believes that the longhorn will become more popular in breeding to help bring their lean quality to other breeds.