on the South 20

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Corriente cattle, also known as the Spanish Criollo, first made their way to the Western Hemisphere in the 1490s when the Spanish brought them to the New World. Their first appearance in the Southwest was in 1598. The Spanish brought the Corriente to the New World with them because they had a hardiness to them that allowed them to survive the long journey across the Atlantic. Corriente were known for their disease resistance and hardiness. Corriente are small cattle. Bulls average about 1,000 pounds, while cows generally weigh only 800 pounds. Corriente cattle were the seed stock for the Texas Longhorn.

Another characteristic that made the Corriente perfect for the Southwest was their ability to adapt to the arid climate. They are excellent foragers and thrive on rough and rocky terrain. Over time, many ranchers began losing interest in Corriente as beef cattle because of their size, however, their leanness has once again made them a popular beef selection for people interested in healthier cuts of meat.

Today, Corriente cattle are bred and used for rodeo events. Their horns, agility, and endurance make them perfect for roping and bulldogging. They are easy to train and pick up routines with ease. Corriente are multi-colored and patterned, and have excellent maternal traits.

Texas Longhorn

Texas Longhorns are most often associated with the mystique of the American West, cowboy culture, and the 19th century cattle industry. However, they were nearly exterminated as a breed before the U.S. Forest Service went into action in the 1920s, collecting a small herd of original Longhorns from South Texas and saving the breed.

Texas Longhorns are most commonly recognized by their wide, broad horns, which average 5 1/2 feet across in mature cattle. Their color varies from one to another, but frequently they are spotted or brindled and include some shade of a dull red color. Longhorns have high fertility rates with small birth-weight calves. Their genetic pool provides for increased hybrid vigor in crossbreeding, and their fertility results in a new calf every year. They also calve for years longer than most breeds, sometimes reaching 18 to 20 years. Their ability to survive in marginal areas and under the worst forage conditions, as well as their resistance to disease and parasites, make them good candidates for life in the Southwest. Like their ancestors the Corriente, their meat is lower in fat and cholesterol.

Texas Longhorns developed naturally from range stock brought by the Spanish to North America in the 1600s.  These Corriente cattle moved uncontrolled and likely bred with small numbers of English cattle brought to perimeter frontier areas by American explorer and American Indian groups in the early 1800s.  By the 1850s, a distinct and unchanging stock of cattle began to emerge through natural selection.

After the Civil War, herds of Texas Longhorns were driven into New Mexico Territory to supply beef for Native Americans forced onto reservations, and soldiers. During the next two decades, numerous cattle ranches were established in the Territory and Longhorns were moved back and forth from Texas to New Mexico and north to the cattle yards in the Midwest.  After tick fever, a disease that killed newly arriving European cattle at alarming rates, but which Longhorns were immune too, arrived in New Mexico, Texas Longhorns were banned and ranches began raising almost exclusively imported breeds.

The Museum maintains a small herd of Texas Longhorns and welcomes a few new calves every year.


Hereford cattle originated in Herefordshire, England in the mid-18th century. They were bred to produce beef for a rapidly-increasing population during the Industrial Revolution.

Unlike many breeds of animals, Herefords are actually smaller today than they were when they were developed. Bulls weigh between 1,500- 2,000 pounds, and cows between 900-1,500.

Herefords are red cattle with white faces and can be horned or polled. They mature early, finish quickly, and produce a high-quality beef.

These popular cattle were brought to New Mexico in the late 19th century and quickly became the dominant breed for range cattle. Today they are often crossed with other breeds like the Angus.

Black Angus

Originating in Scotland and called Aberdeen-Angus, Black Angus beef cattle have become one of the most popular cattle breeds in the United States. They are easily recognizable by their solid black color and lack of horns (polled). The breed was developed in the early 19th century and the first Angus cattle arrived in the United States in 1873. They were almost immediately crossed with Texas Longhorn cattle resulting in a herd of hornless black calves who could survive the tough Plains winters and weighed more than Longhorns.

The first Black Angus in New Mexico were raised on the VV Ranch located near, appropriately named, Angus, N.M. in Lincoln County. (At the time, the VV Ranch was managed by none other than Pat Garrett.) Black Angus cattle were slow to catch on in the Southwest because their black coloration increased heat and stress. Today, the breed is found throughout New Mexico and is commonly crossed with Hereford cattle, producing the popular “Black Baldy.”

Angus beef is a popular choice of meat found in grocery stores and restaurants today. This is due to a very successful advertising promotion created by the American Angus Association and its Certified Angus Beef program. Most beef cattle growers would agree that it would be difficult to pick out an Angus cut in a blind taste test.


As early as 1912, American beef producers began cross breeding cattle in order to develop breeds that could thrive in the hot and humid southern states. Several breeders experimented with different breeds. One of the most successful crosses resulted in the Brangus, a 5/8 Angus and 3/8 American Brahman cross which takes four generations of cross breeding to produce.

The American Brangus Breeders Association, founded in 1949 and now called the International Brangus Breeders Association, has long used the slogan, “Any Country is Brangus Country,” due to the strong characteristics of the breed and its ready adaptability to any region of the country. The cattle do equally well in high heat and humidity, and during cold winters.

The naturally polled (without horns) Brangus has the hair and black color of the Angus, but the heat tolerance, baggy skin, and size of the American Brahman. A Brangus bull’s average weight is more than 2,100 pounds, while cows weigh about 1,450 pounds. The Museum is proud of its small herd of these fine cattle.

American Brahman

The American Brahman breed started to develop in 1885 in the United States from the Bos Indicus breed that originated from India. The American Brahman is the first American beef breed developed in the U.S. This breed is easily identified by the large hump that can be found over their shoulders and neck, along with the very loose skin that is noticeable under the neck. Bulls can range anywhere between 1,600- 2,200 pounds while the cows range in 1,000-1,400 pounds. However, Brahman calves weigh only 50-60 pounds. This large breed of cattle is commonly known to be incredibly intelligent and inquisitive. Brahmans are also very shy, but responsive to kindness and sensitive to all types of handling.

The Brahman cattle thrive in New Mexico due to their high heat tolerance. They have long ears and loose skin, increasing the body surface area exposed to cooling. The short, thick, glossy hair coat of the Brahman reflects much of the sun’s rays. Brahman cattle are considered so foundational to New Mexico’s cattle industry that they are only used as stock to breed Brangus cattle (Brahman + Angus). On their own, they produce a lean, high-quality meat, free of excess fat.

In modern times, it is rare to find full-breed American Brahmans. They are so rare, that in 2002, the Museum became the third active member of the American Brahman Breeders Association in the state of New Mexico.


The Charolais breed was introduced to the United States from France in 1936, but did not become popular until the 1960s. Charolais cattle are all white or near white in color and are quite large. Bulls range from 2,000 to 2,500 pounds and cows between 1,250 and 2,000 pounds. Other distinguishing features include a short neck, pink nose, and large face. The Charolais is naturally a horned breed, but through selective cross breeding, polled animals are more common.

The breed has had a substantial impact on the beef industry in a relatively short amount of time. The Charolais has demonstrated superiority in growth ability, efficient feedlot gains, and carcass characteristics. These cattle are also excellent to cross with other beef breeds and continue to have a positive influence on the industry.


Holstein cows produce more milk on average than any other breed. Their ability to produce a high milk yield with low butterfat content makes them the most utilized breed of dairy cattle. Holsteins can produce as much as 60,000 pounds of milk per year. The Holstein is also the largest breed of dairy cattle. Bulls weigh upwards of 1,750 pounds and cows average 1,250 pounds.  Calves weigh in at a whopping 75-125 pounds at birth and are especially hardy. They can survive in even the most adverse conditions.

The Holstein breed originated nearly 2,000 years ago when two groups of people from central Europe settled together in what is today known as the Netherlands. One group brought white cattle and the other brought black. Eventually crossbreeding created the spotted Holstein. Dutch colonists brought the first Holsteins to North America in the 1600s.

While there were likely Holstein cattle in New Mexico during the 1800s, brought here by settlers arriving from the eastern parts of the country, there were no officially registered breeders in New Mexico until 1909. The breed’s ability to adapt to a variety of extreme environmental conditions makes it perfect for dairy producers here in the desert. 

Today the dairy industry is the largest producer of agricultural products in New Mexico. The largest agricultural crop in the state is hay grown to feed the the dairy industry. In 2017, New Mexico ranked ninth in the nation for milk production producing more than 8 million pounds of milk. The vast majority of dairy cattle in the state of Holsteins.  Nine out of ten dairy cows in the United States are Holsteins.

Because the dairy industry is so important in New Mexico, the Museum typically keeps a dairy cow for milking demonstrations. However, because cows only produce milk after the birth of a calf, milking demonstrations are not always available for visitors.


Navajo-Churro sheep are characterized by their small size and coarse wool. Their coat can vary greatly in color, including shades of brown and tan, though white and black are the most common. The combination of a long-staple protective topcoat and a soft undercoat make the breed well suited to extreme climates.  Although their wool is coarse, it is very long and easy to spin. It is also free of lanolin, the natural grease often found in wool.

Navajo-Churro sheep are descendants of the first breed of sheep brought to the New World by the Spanish, probably as early as the 16th century.  Churro sheep are an ancient Iberian breed, valued by the Spanish for their hardiness and adaptability.

Spanish conquistadors and colonists brought the Churro north to the new settlements of the Rio Grande Valley in the 17th century, where they became the backbone of the Spanish ranching economy. American Indians began acquiring the sheep by raids or trade, soon building their own flocks and altering their way of life. Principal among these are the Navajo, for whom the Churro became central to herding and weaving.

In 1863, when the Navajo were forced to relocate to Fort Sumner, N.M. Territory, the U.S. Army slaughtered large flocks of sheep. Some of the Churro escaped the slaughter and survived in the canyon lands near Canyon de Chelly. The Navajo recovered these sheep when they returned from Fort Sumner. Further reduction of the breed occurred during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl.  The Navajo have fought to maintain their flocks and have kept the breed alive in New Mexico. 

The Museum maintains a small flock of Navajo-Churro sheep and use their wool for spinning and weaving demonstrations.


Development of the Debouillet breed began in 1920 on the A.D. Jones Ranch near Tatum, NM. The Debouillet is a cross of the Delaine Merino and Rambouillet breeds. Through the Jones’ selective breeding program, the Debouillet took on the staple (fleece) length of the Delaine Merino and the larger body type of the Rambouillet. Characteristics of each breed led to producing fine, quality wool with good body size and confirmation. The breed is well adapted to range conditions here in the Southwest. It wasn’t until 1943 when the Jones Ranch began selling their ewes and the Jones Sheep became known as Debouillet.

In the mid-1950s, the Debouillet was officially listed on
the breed registry and recognized by the USDA. By the
1970s, there was a national downturn in the sheep
industry and sheep raisers no longer needed to register their sheep. The Debouillet registry closed in 1985.

The Museum has a small flock of Debouillet with lambs expected next year. The fleece is currently being utilized in “sheep to shawl“ demonstrations, spinning workshops, and hands-on activities teaching children how to spin wool into yarn.


Ponies are defined as small horses that measure less than 14.2 hands high at the withers (the shoulder bone). Compared to standard-sized horses, ponies often have thicker manes, tails, and overall coats and can have heavier bones, wider bodies, shorter legs, and thicker necks. The term “pony” is often used to describe any small horse regardless of breed or actual size.

Because of their small size, ponies are often thought of as children’s horses; however, they were originally work horses that adapted to the harsh natural environment in Northern Europe where they originated. Ponies are hard workers and intelligent, but they can be very stubborn.

The Museum has several breeds of ponies that we use for pony rides. Our Haflinger (pictured) originated in the mountains of the Austrian Tyrol and is a good hardworking pony. The Shetland is the best-known pony. They originated in Scotland and were used to carry peat (a deposit of dead plant material) out from the wetland bogs.

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