Cowboys drive longhorns through past Frost Tower through downtown San Antonio.
Cowboys drive longhorns past Frost Tower as they make their way through downtown San Antonio during the annual Western Heritage Parade & Cattle Drive. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

JP blinked calmly at well-wishers who wanted to take pictures with her. The 900-pound red-and-white longhorn stood outside a pen holding 66 of her brethren, all waiting for the annual Western Heritage Parade & Cattle Drive to start Saturday morning.

Scott Kimble, one of the owners of Kimble Cattle Company, describes the personalities of the longhorns.
Scott Kimble, one of the owners of Kimble Cattle Co., describes the personalities of his longhorns. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

JP and the rest of the longhorns belonged to Scott Kimble, one of three owners of Kimble Cattle Co., along with his mother, Joyce, and sister Janis. Kimble has been bringing longhorn cattle to the kickoff event for the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo for six years now. The longhorns lead the way in the annual parade with horses, stagecoaches, and more.

Kimble Cattle Co. raises 200 longhorns on 1300 acres of pasture in Karnes City. They aren’t raised for food, instead living out their lives on the ranch and occasionally traveling to shows and parades, Kimble said.

“We’re raising walking history,” he said. “That’s our motto.”

The number of cattle he brings fluctuates every year, depending on the size of the individual cows, Kimble explained. If he were to bring a steer with horns 7 feet across, for instance, he would be able to fit only one in a trailer. And the longhorns will help him decide who goes to the parade.

“I do most of the selecting,” Kimble said. “But if I have 65 cows in a pen that I know will walk [in the parade], it’s whoever will get in the trailer first. Some will stall and sit down. They have moods just like humans do.”

Waiting under the Interstate 35 bridge with the livestock, a dozen contract cowboys were ready to herd the longhorns down Houston Street. Neil Heard and his 9-year-old son Tate counted the longhorns in the pen together, strategizing for the parade. Tate has been riding horses since he was 18 months old, Heard said, and works as a cattle driver and rancher alongside grown men.

“We almost depend on him like a man,” Heard said. “We forget that he’s 9.”

The Heards are fifth-generation ranchers from Goliad County in South Texas; both sides of the family are ranchers, Heard said. They own their own cattle and also do contract work on other ranches.

Heard said he has never thought about leaving the family business.

“That’s what I know to do,” he said. “It’s what we’ve always done. It’s tradition. So many people think milk comes from the store, but we know where it’s raised at. Some people think T-bones come from the steakhouse. We see it from start to finish.”

Kimble also knows cattle well. His longhorns define their own social hierarchy, and he figures it out so he knows how to treat them accordingly.

“Every herd, you’re going to have a dominant cow, a dominant steer,” Kimble explained. “They’ll walk in and clear a room, stand at a gate and stop everything, get water first and feed first.”

He pointed at one of the tallest longhorns pacing around the pen as other cows rushed to clear a path.

“It’s like Moses” parting the Red Sea, he said. “See how they move? Everybody knows who’s who.”

Longhorns have simple needs, Kimble said — they want food and water, shelter, and to be taken care of. And at the end of the day, that’s what people want too, he said.

“Life is too simple,” he said, looking at his longhorns. “All the stress of the world you think you have? It doesn’t matter. All that crap doesn’t matter.”

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang is the local government reporter at the San Antonio Report.

Bonnie Arbittier

Bonnie Arbittier is a photojournalist raised in upstate New York and rural Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Fine Arts and French. After completing...