Just a few days ago, a humble herd of cattle roamed the open plains without a care in the world. But beneath the rumble and whir of I-35 traffic Saturday morning, the more than 100 longhorns selected for San Antonio’s annual Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive realized they were about to be true city slickers.

Their hesitant clip and clop over Houston Street’s unfamiliar concrete landscape quickly evened out into a dignified strut, as the speckled brown, white, and burnt-orange beasts tried to outdo each other in showing off their Texas pride.

They weren’t alone. Between stage coaches and covered wagons, cowboys sported their finest chaps and escaramuzas draped their frilled dresses over well-groomed Palominos. Lasso girls and bagpipers entertained the morning crowds, while clowns bedazzled in stars and stripes provoked hearty chuckles. Near the end of the parade, horses the size of German Shepherds flourished their manes.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Sara Mahaffy of Laredo as Marine Corps servicemen on horseback passed.

Members of the United States Marine Corps on horseback continue down the parade route.
Members of the United States Marine Corps on horseback continue down the parade route. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

In town to visit family, Mahaffy and her son were pleasantly surprised by the various portions of the parade.

In an annual crowd-pleaser, four industrious border collies kept a small flock of sheep in a tight cluster. Behind them, the crowd erupted in cheers as volunteers scooped fresh manure off the street.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen so many longhorns coming out at once,” said San Antonio native Jesse Ramirez, who brought his family to the parade for the first time. “… We’ll definitely come out here next year to check it out.”

Marking the beginning of the city’s three-week Stock Show and Rodeo, the Western Heritage Parade and Cattle Drive has attracted thousands to Houston Street since it kicked off nine years ago.

Established in 1949, the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo has grown far beyond a showcase of Texas agricultural heritage. Its horse show, livestock show, and rodeo feature dozens of events each. The rodeo also includes a carnival and concerts by country favorites like Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, and Rascal Flatts.

According to the rodeo’s website, the event attracts 2 million people to San Antonio each year.

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Daniel Kleifgen

Daniel Kleifgen graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy. A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., he came to San Antonio in 2013 as a Teach For America corps member.