From the second you lay eyes on them, they make their presence known. Their confidence is shown with their heads held high and their horns held higher. The Longhorns are one of the most well-known animals at the National Western Stock Show.
Many know them as the official kick-off of Stock Show with the parade in downtown Denver. But what they don’t know is that they have multiple different roles and appearances throughout the 16 days. Stock Show attendees can also see these majestic cattle in the Wild West performances, rodeos and in the Stockyard Arena for the Longhorn Show.
Gary Lake, a Longhorn cattle producer and owner of Silverado Ranch from southeast Colorado, was the first and current provider of the Longhorns for the parade, rodeos and Wild West performances.
At the 100th anniversary of the National Western Stock Show, the event was looking for a way to increase the crowd attendance and word of mouth about the show. Lake received a phone call and was asked to drive a herd of 40 cattle through downtown Denver at the annual Kick-
off Parade. Since the first year of the drive, it has become a 15-year tradition. The downtown crowd has increased by nearly 47,000 since the Longhorns made their debut. Through many interviews and discussion with Stock Show goers, the longhorn cattle are on top of “need to see’’ bucket lists every year.
“The reactions of the people is the most fun to see every year,” Reynolds said.
Marlene Reynolds, a ranch hand for Silverado Ranch and a Longhorn judge, loves seeing the crowds flocking to see the Longhorns around Stock Show.
What makes this breed unique is how diversified the cattle color and horn shape are. They are unique compared to other breeds where a majority of cattle typically stay true to their coat color. During the Longhorn shows, they are judged based on their color, body confirmation and horn shape.
“The wilder the color with correct body confirmation and horn growth, the better they’ll show,” Reynolds said.
Believe it or not, Longhorn cattle are not the most common breed in the United States. This makes them more exclusive and different from ordinary cattle people pass by on a regular basis. Longhorns are the breed that make people do a double take, slow their cars down and immediately make people take out their phone to catch a picture.
“They are the showstoppers,” Lake said. “When people see longhorns it reminds them of the historic west. It brings them back to the times of John Wayne and cattle drives.”
“That’s why we wanted to do the cattle drives in downtown Denver, because it is a reenactment of history, and not a lot of people get to see this breed often,” Lake said.
Longhorns are more than just unique cattle. Just like Stock Show, they remind people to slow down and admire the Western culture, as the ways of the West are slowly becoming a thing of the past. These cattle and the Stock Show help current generations learn about the past, present, and future of agricultural lifestyles.
Blog by: Joclyn Bushman, 2020 Marketing & PR Intern
Joclyn Bushman is a recent graduate from Iowa State University with her degree in Agricultural Communications. Joclyn grew up on her family farm raising cattle and poultry in northeast Iowa. Her hopes in the future is to be a full-time agricultural photographer traveling in a Jeep Wrangler with a pug by her side. It has been a dream of Joclyn’s to land an internship with the National Western Stock Show and she’s been loving it since the very start.