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Exotic steers horn in on Ag Expo cattle show

August 07, 1998

LonghornsBy SHEILA HOTCHKIN / Staff Writer

photo: MIKE CRUPI / staff photographer [enlarge]




SHARPSBURG - Houdini did Jeff and Sharon Wiles of Clear Spring proud Thursday night when he won the grand champion award for longhorn steer at the Washington County Ag Expo cattle show.

"I had him all cleaned up, and you see what he did for the show," said Jeff Wiles, shaking his head as he examined mud smeared on Houdini after the Ag Expo cattle show.

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Sharon Wiles pinned the purple ribbon on Houdini's pen after the show.

"You know what's going to happen if you hang it there?" her husband asked. "Someone's going to eat it. And it ain't going to be me."

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The Texas longhorn, described by the show's judge as an exotic, hobby breed on the East Coast, continues to gain a following among some Maryland cattle farmers.

"It's kind of like having a little piece of the Old West in your backyard," said Damon Huntzberry of Smithsburg, who showed several of his 32 longhorns in the show ring Thursday night.

Along with nostalgia, there are more practical reasons for raising longhorns. Breeders say their animals produce high-quality beef that is low in both cholesterol and fat.

"A lot of people ask, 'What do you do with them?'" Huntzberry said. "It's really the best beef in the industry."

And the wicked-looking curved horns are deceptive, he added.

"It seems like when I've worked with them, it seems like they have a better disposition (than other breeds)," said Huntzberry, who manages Cowboy Way Cattle Co. with his wife, Liz.

"But of course, I'm biased because I have them."

As Augie Velisek, the show's judge, watched a young girl show a heifer that nearly caught her with its horns several times, he could not help but worry.

"When I see that heifer twisting around and I see the horns miss that young lady by that much, that scares me," said Velisek, of Keedysville. "That's why my kids show Angus."

Jeff Wiles pointed to Houdini's horns, which span 40 inches, and said the 1,200-pound steer looks menacing when he tries to shake a fly from his head.

"It's like swinging an eight-foot 2-by-4," he said of the horns, which are growing at the rate of an inch a month.

Houdini, one of 12 longhorns owned by the Wiles, takes his name from the master of escape artistry.

"Actually, when he was a calf, he could jump out of one pen and back into another pen without leaving a sign of how he did it," said Jeff Wiles, who runs J.W. Longhorns.

Don Beard, who sold the grand champion steer to Jeff Wiles, said the animal, now two years old, could not have found a better home.

"He's got it better than some kids," Beard joked.

When Velisek chose the evening's winner, he took that into consideration.

"The steer that won was well taken care of," he said.

Velisek also looked at the length of the horns, but said size is not as important in the breed, which does not gain the weight that other types of cattle do.

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