Ralph Fisher has an unusual claim to fame. The genial showman from Swiss Alp, Texas, has snapped
more photos of Texas Longhorns than anyone else in the world. Ralph, also a retired rodeo clown and
schoolteacher, shares his love and lore about the breed he’s admired all his life.

Whether it’s at a car dealership or a rodeo, the public likes Texas Longhorns.

Ralph, why do you use Texas Longhorns in your photo animal business?

Texas Longhorns attract attention. They’re beautiful creatures. People admire them and value the
opportunity to pose with one and have their picture taken.

Not every Texas Longhorn is cut out for Ralph’s photo animal business, making those that are extra special.

How do you train a Longhorn?

Training is done with firmness but with petting and brushing, other than at feeding time. First, I start by
putting a halter on a steer for control. After a year or so, I put a ring in the steer’s nose to get his
attention and fine-tune my control. Next, I place a saddle on the steer. Then I put weight in the saddle,
and when he’s used to that, I get aboard. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

The steer needs to be comfortable in tight spaces, so I lead it into our wash rack with a rubber mat on
the floor here on the farm. The radio is playing, so the steer gets accustomed to hearing noise, and I
hang objects like flags and banners that flutter in the breeze. After all, this is Texas and there will be
flags flying wherever we go.

While training a steer, I get to know him and decide whether he’s right for my business.

Lone Star had horns so long that four people could stand behind each one. That’s Elaine Thomas enjoying the Texas Longhorn’s company at a Fayette County Farm Bureau event several years ago.

What’s a Longhorn steer’s favorite treat?

My Longhorns don’t get treats, only petting, which they interpret correctly as kindness. Most animals
appreciate kindness, with the exception of rattlesnakes, alligators and black widow spiders.

Behind the Scenes

How do you load a Longhorn in a trailer?

I train a steer to step in and usually have hay available as a reward or positive influence, not a treat as
such. Some steers travel better than others. Holding their heads sideways, they will enter a space as
wide as their shoulders. Although I usually transport one or two at a time in my trailer that measures
52×8 feet, I can haul as many as six. The steers will cross their horns with one another instinctively.

How do you walk a Longhorn through a hotel lobby or onto a freight elevator?

Since I have trained the steer to walk through tight places on my farm, it’s not a big deal on the job. At
venues where we perform, I cover slick floors with indoor-outdoor carpeting. I also cover expensive

Are all Longhorns suited for your business?

Very few. I don’t care for the color of some or I may sense a certain harm potential or am wary of a
steer’s attitude. Attitude is everything.

Have you had any misadventures with your photo animals?

I’ve had several, but probably the most surprising was Sept. 13, 1987, when Pope John Paul II was
visiting San Antonio. I was waiting on a grassy area at Alamo Plaza with a steer with hundreds and
hundreds of people. It was awfully hot and we’d been there a long time.

A woman carrying her baby in a carrier decided the infant needed to be in the shade, so she put it under
my steer because he was casting a shadow. Then she walked off 20 or 30 feet to a better view as the
popemobile went by. She was oblivious to the possible danger in which she had placed her child.

Remember all that training I give my steers? It paid off that day. That steer never moved.

More Information Please

How long do Longhorns live?

My steers have lived 23 years, weird but true. I have heard of 30-year-old cows. Too many range cubes
over a lifetime will wear out an animal’s teeth. It largely depends on what kind of feed they’ve had.

Tumbleweed, Ralph’s first Longhorn, is a mount on the wall. He’s behind Ralph, who is holding a mount of Oscar, the 49-year-old buzzard that won wide acclaim for appearing with Ralph at ZZ Top concerts.

Do you miss the Longhorns you’ve loved and admired over the years?

Yes, I still miss my first one, Tumbleweed. We learned together and I probably had more patience back
then. Tumbleweed could be ridden; he could lope; he would stand still and kneel during the national
anthem and prayers at rodeos. He was also suited for posing for photos with customers. He traveled
well. I had him stuffed along with Oscar, another of my entertainment animals.

Ralph once stood on Tumbleweed’s back (at left beside a woman rider on a Brahman) in a Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Parade. Ralph hadn’t planned to let his chaps fall down around his knees.
Ralph rode Tumbleweed in the Katy Rodeo parade many times, winning first prize year after year.
Ralph and Tumbleweed got lots of attention when they entered this rodeo arena during the grand entry.

How do you name your Longhorn steers?

I give them western-themed names like Tumbleweed, Dallas, Texas, Dakota, Wrangler, Buckaroo,
Cactus, Pecos, Abilene, etc. We often rename steers we buy.

Learning from Experience

How long have you been around Texas Longhorns?

I grew up admiring Texas Longhorns. We were fence line neighbors with the E.H. Marks family, who
owned the LH7 Ranch near my hometown of Barker, Texas, 20 miles west of Houston.

That family played a huge role in the breed’s survival. There were only a few hundred authentic
Longhorns around in the 1920s. Longhorns were almost extinct due to over-slaughter and failing to keep enough breeding pairs. They chose animals with exemplary characteristics and developed, through
selective breeding, important traits such as horns, color, meat qualities, motherhood, bull fertility,
disposition and general appearance.

For more about the breed’s story in Texas, visit:

Do you raise Longhorns?

I’ve owned a few cows and calves, hoping for the ‘right’ bull calf. Everyone wants heifer calves, so
breeders are willing to part with young bulls or steers they don’t need. That’s how I acquire most of my

At home on Ralph’s range or playing their part in his show business, the Fisher Longhorns enjoy a good life.

What are the most common characteristics of Longhorns?

Traits that combine to make the breed beautiful and unique are: good bones, long legs, a variety of
colors, lean beef, long horns–especially in steers, ease of calving, good milk and inter-herd loyalty,
meaning that cows and bulls protect the calves. Longhorns have the ability to walk miles while grazing
and gain weight all the while. The breed’s even disposition, which has been called mild, is the trait that
has made it famous.

About Those Horns

Is a Longhorn calf born with horns?

Although a Texas Longhorn calf is born with no protruding horns, they soon begin to grow. The more
milk and other nourishment a calf gets aids in horn maturity. Horn length is dependent on heredity,
nourishment and environment.

What’s the longest horn width you’ve seen?

My steer, Milkbone, had 118-inch horns, 9.8 feet tip to tip, straight across. The longest I’ve ever seen is
10 feet.

Milkbone, whom I raised, was a character: an outlaw, inattentive and a little on the scrawny side. I
thought a lot of him even though he didn’t have the temperament for my photo animal business. I sold
him and many years later, saw his mount on display at a San Antonio-area ranch. He is still being

How dangerous are the horns on a Texas Longhorn?

Mothers are protective. Since their horns turn in a wide radius, they can accidentally hook you. Cow
horns are lighter in structure and curly, not as long as steer horns. When castrated at about a year,
steers’ horns assume the shape of cow horns due to a lack of testosterone but usually grow fuller
around and much longer. Some cows these days have tremendous horns, all through years of selective

In the old days, the average horn length was not nearly as great as it is now, with the exception of an
occasional steer, cow or bull.

Three of my steers are from the Yates bloodline and are termed double-twist or double curl. As they
grow older, the horns will actually make two 360-degree turns. Very few of that bloodline are left
because that herd near Abilene, Texas, was dispersed after Fayette Yates died.

I have had, and do have, LH7 and Yates steers. My favorite for an easy-going temperament is the Butler
bloodline from near League City, Texas.

Like all creatures, Texas Longhorns grow old. The lucky ones, like Levi (above), have an owner like Ralph who retires them on the farm with TLC.

What happens when your Texas Longhorns get old?

It’s sad to see one of my steers decline, but that’s life. When one starts to lose weight and look poorly, I
put him in a separate pasture and feed him there so the other steers can’t steal his food. Like people,
Longhorns get arthritis in their knees and eventually some can’t get up. During the freeze in January
2024, my steer named Bleu died. He was in a nice, warm barn.

I turned down three jobs that month because I didn’t want to subject my Longhorns to breathing that
cold, cold air while transporting them. I treat all my animals like I want to be treated.

Regards, Ralph

For more information about Ralph’s business, visit:

Elaine Thomas
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