The Spanish brought the first longhorn cattle to America in 1493. Descendants of these longhorns formed the first cattle population in North America. Some of these escaped into the wild. The first European settlers in Texas brought with them cows. These cows mixed with the Spanish breeds already in Texas and soon grew into considerable herds. It is estimated that by the end of the American Civil War there were about six million longhorns in Texas.
In the second-half of the 19th century cowboys took longhorn from Texas to the railroad cowtowns of Abilene, Dodge City, Wichita and Newton. The cattle business eventually spread to Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona.
In 1867 Joseph McCoy arranged to move cattle from Abilene to the Union Stockyards in Chicago. Longhorns, with their long legs and hard hoofs, were ideal trail cattle; they even gained weight on the way to market.