Great Western Cattle Trail and Cattle History

Great Western Cattle Trail

From 2009 to 2011 the Bandera County Historical Commission, under the direction of late commission member David Burrell, have placed western trail markers throughout Bandera county on the route believed to be the western trail of the Texas Longhorns and herds of cattle. Beginning in the late 1990's during the annual City of Bandera celebration "Celebrate Bandera", a herd of Longhorns are driven through the town by local Cowboys and Cowgirls to kick off the parade. A park was established on Main Street in the City of Bandera dedicated to the historic "Western Trail" and the thousands of trail riders that passed through Bandera County. A marker and story of trail riders that passed through Bandera County. A marker and story of the western trail has also been reinacted in the "Western Trail Heritage Park". Bandera County is the first county in Texas to have placed and dedicated western trail markers along the western trail throughout the county. In 2014, the Texas Historical Commission approved a "Great Western Cattle Trail" marker that was installed in the city of Bandera during the "Celebrate Bandera" festivities scheduled from August 29th to August 30th, 2014.

Texas Longhorn Cattle

"The Texas Longhorn made more history than any other breed of cattle the civilized world has known". A quote from "The Longhorns, by J. Frank Dobie".

In Texas, Longhorns had been roaming the territory for many years. In 1540, Coronado gathered about five hundred head of cattle to supply food for his great expedition in search of the golden Seven Cities of Cibola. He left behind a number of exhausted animals in the lover part of Sinaloa. Twenty-five years later when Francisco de Ibarra arrived in that territory, he found thousands of cattle running wild. The Longhorn cattle had adapted to the rugged country and harsh conditions. The longhorns were mostly used for their hides and tallow. The first cattle to arrive in what is now known as Texas were brought when the Missions were established. Around 1715, a report (repeated and denied) stated that Captain Alonso De Leon when conducting the expedition to found a mission left "a bull and a cow, a stallion and a mare" at each of the various rivers he crossed. Many would escape from the Spanish herds and stray from unfenced ranges. Throughout time the famous wild longhorn cattle grew wilder and fiercer. Some say fiercer than those "strong bulls of Baskan", in lands beyound Jordan's stormy bank that roared among giants.

In Texas, Longhorns were trained to work lik the oxen. After the Civil War, ranch owners returned to Texas and found hundreds of Longhorns roaming their land. Texas had no market place to sale them. Times wre harsh and the high demand for beef in the Northwest led Mexican and Texas ranch trail bosses to drive their longhorn cattle herds through Bandera County to the nearest railroad to sell for higher prices. There were western cattle trails from Mexico through Bandera and Bexar County into Oklahoma and Kansas, and into the northern states. The staging area for the Great Western Cattle Trail was located near the small Town of Bandera. From the 1870s in the late 1800s, it is estimated that seven to ten million longhorns and one million horses were driven by approximately 30,000 cowboys from the staging area through the Great Western Trail that extended north through Dodge City, Kansas, and the Dakotas into Canada. From 1855 to 1890 over 950 cattle marks and brands were registered in Bandera County. During the cattle drives, the cowboy was paid from $25 to $40 a month. Wranglers were paid a little more, about $50 a month. The cooks and ramrods were paid about $75 a month and the trail boss were paid about $100 a month.

A petition to form Bandera County was signed in January 1856.

In the late 1870's, the cattle drives began their decline and sheep were brought into Bandera County to replace cattle. By 1880, sheep outnumbered cattle 32,974 to 9,471. Wool became a important export product in Bandera County. Angora goats were also raised in large numbers and mohair begin to be shipped in significant quantities during the late 1880's. The lack of good roads was a problem and kept the county isolated. Because of the county's hilly terrain, the railroads by passed Bandera County to the north or south and ranchers were forced to use overland roads to ship there products to market in San Antonio.