The Texas Longhorn: Noble Symbol or Omen of Death

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The Texas Longhorn: A symbol of pride. A beacon of solidarity, hope, strength, and steadfastness. Worldwide when people see the longhorn standing solid in a pasture with the western sun setting in the backdrop, they think of Texas.

But according to a news report from The Moulton Eagle newspaper, there was one particular steer whose appearance signaled something much more dark and sinister: death.

A Mysterious Brand

Murder 1889

Photo: Flicker/Terry Shuck

The story goes that there was one longhorn of a particular herd who had killed nine men. Whether he gored, trampled, or paralyzed them with his steely cold gaze, no one is quite sure. He had a reputation as being a dangerous item of livestock and bore an odd brand of “Murder 1889” on his left flank. The origin of this brand was the subject of much discussion and theorizing.

The White Steer Appears

Dead man's hand

Photo: Flickr/mlhradio

Despite the steer’s allegedly violent history, he was still much desired stock. In a dispute between two local ranchers over the ownership of “Murder”, one rancher killed the other. According to The Moulton Eagle, the longhorn was only a yearling at this time. The new owner fled, but his cattlemen branded the steer “Murder 1889”, a signpost to the bloody history regarding ownership.

The owner and alleged murderer was a man by the name of Fino Gilliland. A short time after the murder, Gilliland’s nephew, Jeff Webb, was killed in a poker game near the town of Alpine. After the killing witnesses claim that standing outside of the saloon where Webb was killed, staring into the window, there was a big white steer bearing the mark “Murder 1889” on his left flank.

A Spirit or Coincidence?

Texas Rangers range

Photo: Flickr/Debbie

Gilliland himself was shot down by Texas Rangers about six months after he murdered his neighbor in the dispute over the steer. The Rangers attempted to arrest Gilliland and a gunfight ensued. When officers were scanning the scene after the shootout, a white steer walked up to Gilliland’s body and sniffed his corpse. The steer bore the mark, “Murder 1889” on its left flank.

Gilliland was killed 75 miles away from the previous sighting of “Murder 1889”. Many locals believed the steer was an omen of death. Other locals claimed that the steer possessed the spirit of Gilliland himself.