A distinctive Texas longhorn with origins associated with a cattle herd with decades of legacy recently occurred at the Valentine Livestock Market.
The large and lively steer of expressive coloration was sold February 11th during a Thursday weigh-up sale. It weighed 1420 pounds, and was purchased for $284, or 20 cents per pound, according to market records.
A US brand was obvious on its left rear hip. This is the mark used for the longhorn herd that was formerly at the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.
The animal was immense, with a magnificent set of horns gracing its about six foot stature. While at the market it was notably cantankerous, resulting in an obvious awareness of its presence in one pen or another. Its antics also elicited some "funning" by pen workers on sale day, as it seemed to act in response to the red coloration of a coat. During some other times while constricted among the stock pens, it could be relatively calm.
This steer was taken from its home on the range to a pen at the livestock market, upon delivery for sale by a rancher of southeast Cherry county, westward from Brownlee. It had been kept in a pasture amidst other ranch bulls, according to its former owner. The estimated age was 12-14 years, he said. It was bought as a calf of the year during a longhorn sale at Fort Niobrara refuge.
This steer may have been one of the last longhorns born at the refuge, according to historic details available from numerous sources.
The last longhorn calf crop at the refuge was in 2000. They were branded June 4th, according to historic articles and records. At the last annual auction in October, a variety of longhorns from the herd were sold, including all of the bull and heifer calves. It cost, on average, $663 to purchase a bull calf.
Later in the month, a memorandum of understanding denoted those longhorns to be transferred from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ownership to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. No calves were included.
In mid-November 2000, the remaining herd with origins dating to the mid-1930s, were moved in a great and famous overland drive from the refuge east of Valentine to Fort Robinson state park.
Since the herd was gone from the Valentine area in 2000, the steer at the market was at least 15 years old, and may have been 16 this coming spring, if not older.
On February 15th, this iconic longhorn - along with other sold cattle - were loaded on a semi-truck trailer and departed Valentine, with Texas the destination.