Kent Harrell and his wife Sandy own a ranch south of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where they’ve raised Texas longhorns for more than four decades.
The Harrells and folks like them love longhorns. They’re beautiful animals, with their big horns and colorful hides. But they don’t make a steak like an angus or a Hereford. So there was a time when longhorns were persona non grata in the cattle world.
Not long ago, Kent was at a livestock auction, where he got to talking with another rancher.
“He said, ‘What do you got?’ I said well I raise Texas longhorns. he says ‘Oh I’m sorry.’ And I said why are you sorry? and he says ‘Well there’s no money to be made in Texas longhorns.’ And I couldn’t help myself,” Harrell said.
The other rancher boasted that he had just sold a cow for $2,000.
“I said well OK. I just sold one two months ago for $700,000,” said Harrell.
The cow’s name is HR Rosette, and she was sold at the Legends Longhorn Auction in September. It was the most ever paid for a single longhorn at auction, topping a $380,000 sale from 2017.
HR Rosette was five years old at the time of the sale. She’s a gentle cow, white with brown blotches, and a set of horns that stretch more than 100 inches tip to tip. She’s the finest animal the Harrells have ever raised. It was hard to sell her.
“It was tough to make that decision,” Harrell said. “Sandy – my wife and I – talked about it extensively and we finally said ‘We’re getting older, and we’ve sold a lot of cows but we haven’t really sold any of our top cows.’ And it’s time we start selling our very top cows.”
The market for longhorns is different from other types of cattle. They’re not bred for their meat, but their looks: straight backs, healthy hooves, crazy colors, and of course, the longest possible horns. It’s like a mix between buying a piece fine art and a racehorse.
HR Rosette was sold to the owners of Clark’s Ranch in Oregon, which breeds longhorns and hosts weddings. For them, a $700,000 cow is an investment. HR Rosette will pass her superior horn-growing genetics on to her offspring, who could bring a windfall of their own at auction.
The Harrells will put the cash from the sale back into the ranch. Even though they’re winding their business down, it’s more expensive than ever to run a ranch. Rising property taxes, inflation, and extreme weather are all to blame.
“Our feed bills are horrendous this year. We had to go buy hay all the way from Arkansas and truck it in. We normally have enough hay from our own hay meadows. This year we had less than half as much as we needed from our own hay meadows,” Harrell.
For the cost, at least Harrell will be known as the person who raised the world’s most expensive longhorn. For now anyway.