Horns down photo surfaces in forum

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A photo of a longhorn with its horn deliberately formed down appeared in a forum several days ago. An A&M spokesman said if the photo was legitimate, the school had no involvement with it.

The “horns down” longhorn that generated controversy in online forums will not appear during the halftime show at the annual Thanksgiving football rivalry between UT and Texas A&M, said an A&M spokesman.

Since first being posted online in the forum section of the TexAgs website around Nov. 8, a photo depicting a longhorn whose horns have been purposefully weighed down so that they curl under the chin has spawned animal welfare concerns from Longhorns, Aggies and animal activists. The original photo was removed without explanation, but a post containing the image on the Texas Exes’ Alcalde blog has generated 49,750 hits in just more than 24 hours.

Jason Cook, spokesman for the Texas A&M University System, said the photo was not endorsed by A&M, confirming that the longhorn will not be appearing at halftime during the game as originally rumored.

“Any rumor of [this longhorn] appearing at halftime is totally false,” Cook said. “Texas A&M has always treated our rivalry with the University of Texas with the utmost respect and dignity, and Thursday will be no exception.”

Some fans have expressed concern online that weighing down horns is a form of animal cruelty. Ryan Huling, manager of College Campaigns for PETA, an animal rights group, said he was suspicious that the animal was suffering.

“Manipulating horns can cause pain and alter a longhorn’s sense of balance,” Huling said. “It’s our belief that this animal is in pain and all for the senseless purpose of school rivalry. Longhorns are intelligent and gentle animals, and while we appreciate Aggie spirit, the stunt lacks general sensibility.”

Rumors also circulated from fans who believed the picture had been modified using computer software.

Laura Standley, editor-in-chief of Texas Longhorn Trails Magazine, the official publication of the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, says she believes the photo is authentic. It is the first case she had seen of a longhorn without horns resembling the distinctive style made famous by the UT trademark.

“It is real, but I don’t know of anybody weighing a longhorn’s horns down for any reason,” Standley said. “It doesn’t hurt them. There was no harming the animal in anyway.”

Becky Rus, CEO of Livestock Concepts, a store selling horn weights, said the owners of the longhorn would have started “training” the horns of the calf once they reached six inches long, or at about one year of age. Horn weights are usually purchased by Hereford cattle breeders wanting to achieve a certain horn shape for competition but are never used on longhorns, Rus said.

“It has to do with the standard of the breed,” Rus said. “Breeders want Herefords to look a certain way, but selective breeding has changed the gene pool over time. To make them look like the standard Hereford, they put weights on them.”

Next Thursday’s game will be the last time the two teams square off before Texas A&M’s scheduled move to the Southeastern Conference in July 2012.

Printed on Thursday, November 17, 2011 as: Controversial longhorn will not attend game