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Greenville native named longhorn breeder of the year

If you think breeding Texas Longhorns is easy, you don’t know bull about cattle.

Jimmy Jones, a 61-year-old Greenville native, has been raising longhorns since 1986.

Jones knows cows. The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America thinks so too-they named Jones as their 2010 breeder of the year.

Breeding cows, Jones said, isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.

“All the time, people that are successful in business get into the longhorn business and expect to be successful,” Jones said. “This isn’t like running a store, however.”

Jones grew up riding horses, though he wasn’t raised on a farm. Rodeo brought Jones up close and personal with bulls and cows. He said he was hooked.

“I first got interested in breeding to breed roping steers,” Jones said.

After buying some unregistered cattle, he began breeding them for roping. That’s when he got interested in longhorns.

“I researched longhorns for 3 years before I ever bought one,” Jones said. “By the time I decided to make the move into the business, I was pretty educated.”

Jones said he sought out and visited as many breeding programs as he could, studying the things he liked and getting an idea of hat he would do differently.

“I believe that no matter what you are going to do, to be successful, you have to go to people who are already successful,” Jones said.

He studied bulls and cows, searching down their genetic line for desirable traits. For Jones, picking the right bull was like asking a woman to marry him.

“You can’t correct a problem in a cow with a bull that has the same problem,” Jones said. “The bull has to be strong where the cow is weak.”

He offered an analogy to football to help explain his point.

“In football, if you have a good quarterback, you need to find someone to catch the ball,” Jones said. “If you got a bull that you think will do what you want to do, you got to put him in front of the cows that can make that happen.”

This selective breeding for traits has lead to some obvious changes in longhorns.

“In 1996, there were 113 cows with horns over 60 inches,” Jones said. “The next year, there were 123 over 63 inches.”

Now, he says, there are over 500 cows with 70-inch horns. Only a dozen or so cows now have horns over 80 inches, one of which was raised by Jones himself.

“We raised a cow that was 81 and 1/16 inches the day she turned 5 years old,” Jones said. “That is 5 years younger than any cow that broke into the 80-inch bracket.”

Horseshow J Example, or cow number 402, is now 6 years old.

And Jones says if she continues growing, he might be the proud owner of the world’s first longhorn with 90-inch horns.