Written by The Drover House owner and artist Jim Mundorf.
These horns are from Texas cattle, the descendants of the great Longhorn herds, and that has made all the difference.
Cattle horns are a bi-product of the beef industry, similar to leather. All of the horns used at The Drover House come from cattle that are processed in Texas, none are imported. I pick up all of the horns from beef packing facilities in Texas. This is important because all other horn dealers, that I know of, use imported cattle horns. Horns have been imported into the U.S. for close to a century. At this time the majority of cattle horns sold in the U.S. come from Africa. The African horns are imported at a low cost for very large quantities making the supplies practically unlimited. This has motivated dealers to put horns together in the cheapest and quickest way possible in order to sell the most horns possible. For most dealers of cattle horns it has become quantity over quality in every aspect of their operation.
That is what makes The Drover House products different. I started working with horns because of my love of cows and the storied history of the Longhorn herds and the cattle trails. The goal here has always been to create the highest quality pieces possible. I have been working with horns for over 10 years now. I am continually studying and working to become better at my craft. On the front page of this website you will find the statement, "The worlds finest Longhorn creations." This is not a statement that I make lightly. It is one that took me years to make and I firmly believe it as the truth. You will not find higher quality longhorn work anywhere in the world.
Bone Removal- Once the horns are brought back to the shop, they are sorted into pairs and left to set until the bones can be removed. Horns are made of a material called keratin and it is the same as what your fingernails are made of. On cattle this grows over a bone. When I receive the horns the bone is still in them and I have found that the only reliable way of removing the bones is to let them set and dry out. On some it can take months for the horns to completely dry out and then I still may have to work for hours to get the bone out. On others the bone might just fall out when you pick it up. I have realized over the years because of the wide variety of the way these things grow there is really no rhyme or reason to the way any of this works.
Polishing- Once the bones are removed, horns are then sanded and polished. Some horns are just lightly sanded to remove the dirt, and this offers a rougher, more rustic look. Most horns are sanded smooth and then polished. Horns, like your fingernails, grow in very thin layers. Unlike your fingernails these layers can contain color. Since the outer layers have been exposed to the elements and been knocked around, they are very dull and dirty. When these layers are sanded off, what is revealed, is a blending of the colorful layers underneath and what I believe to be the most beautiful material that can be found in nature.
Mounting- Once horns are polished a wooden block is carved by hand to fit into the horns. Whether horns are being used for a mount, furniture or a sculpture the process is pretty much the same. I carve a piece of wood to fit into the horn at least 3 inches and sometimes up to 6 inches, depending on the size of the horns and what they are being used for. If I am building a mount I carve the other side of the block to fit the other horn and then form the center. I leave between 11 and 12 inches between the horns because I have found that that is the usual width between horns on the skull. My horns are mounted to represent the animal that grew them. I do not make my centers larger to increase tip to tip length.
Pricing- Because my supplies are limited to what I can find in the U.S. pricing the longhorn mounts can simply be explained by supply and demand. Over the years I have learned what types of horns there is more demand for and the types of horns that are hard to come by. Size, shape and color are the overall determining factors to pricing horns. I try to keep a good inventory of the common sizes, shapes and colors at all times. I do not take into account tip to tip length, but simply the size of the horns. Larger horns are more rare, and therefore more valuable, but just because a horn is large does not mean it will have a large tip to tip length. The straighter the horns the longer they will measure. The more curve and twist a horn has the shorter it will measure. So in my opinion the ideal pair of horns are the largest ones with the most twists and colors.