Rusty picks the Steelers!

After a moment of indecision on Friday, Rusty, the Star-Telegram’s longhorn steer, chose the Pittsburgh Steelers as his favorite to win the Super Bowl by selecting from two trays of food representing the teams in downtown Fort Worth. Of course, this is the “new” Rusty. Here is a story on the “old” Rusty

The end of the trail arrives for Rusty

By Barry Shlachter

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

Rusty, a Texas longhorn steer who long served as the Star-Telegram’s mascot and won fame by competing against investment experts as a stock picker, is headed for the last roundup.

The gentle 20-year-old bovine, often the highlight of printing plant tours for thousands of schoolchildren every year, was examined at Texas A&M University in College Station last week. Veterinarians determined that eight lumps below his jaw are tumors, some nearly 4 inches wide.

“I would say multiple tumors is typically considered not treatable,” said Dr. Wesley Bissett, an assistant professor at A&M’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

The steer is expected to be returned to Fort Worth this afternoon and euthanized.

Rusty racked up a creditable record in choosing stocks each year by dropping cow pies on a numbered grid in a pen. Each square represented either a locally based company or a major local employer.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Rusty was more successful during bull markets. He realized a 62.9 percent gain in 1997, his first year of stock picking, against the experts’ gain of 22.6 percent. Overall, Rusty won four out of eight years, although he’s trailing in 2005.

“It’s quite humbling when Rusty wins by putting the cow pies on certain squares — and it’s also revealing to those competing just how difficult it is to select individual equities, and succeed year after year after year,” said Jerry Singleton, 65, president of Signal Securities.

Singleton, who competed against Rusty four years without losing, said North Texas financial professionals risked “ridicule and happy hour jibes” by signing up to go toe-to-hoof with the steer.

“Frankly, I’ve heard people say they dared not do it — ‘What if the bull beat me? How would I look?’ ” he said.

Rusty was highlighted on CNBC’s Power Lunch stock market program, in BusinessWeek magazine, on National Public Radio’s The Motley Fool Radio Show and on numerous regional TV and radio reports.

Stock picking wasn’t the steer’s only claim to fame.

At the Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America 2000 World Expo, Rusty took first place for conformation, meaning his physical characteristics were that of a classic longhorn, said Larry Barker, an association official. Rusty’s hide is speckled red with a white lineback.

“Rusty is a magnificent steer with a great set of horns, a true-to-type longhorn,” Barker said. “He could have made it up the trail just like his ancestors did 125 years ago.”

Despite horns measuring 62.5 inches from tip to tip, Rusty never damaged property or injured admirers, said Donnie Legrand, his handler. Neither curious children reaching out to pet him, dogs barking at his feet nor rides on escalators triggered a mean response.

The steer gracefully passed through 24-inch gates without mishap, slightly turning his head for clearance, he said.

By the end of this year’s Stock Show where Rusty was a regular feature, Legrand began noticing the longhorn had lost weight. Alvarado veterinarian Clint Calvert discovered the lumps, and Rusty, by then 400 pounds below his normal weight of nearly 1,600 pounds, was taken to A&M for a biopsy.

That led to a diagnosis of terminal cancer on April 28, the day he turned 20, a ripe old age for a longhorn.

Rusty came from champion bloodstock. His grandsire, Texas Ranger JP, was one of the “greatest longhorn bulls of all time,” Barker said. The steer’s full name was FF Rusty. Pasture-bred, he was born in LaVeta, Colo., on April 28, 1985. The breeder was Red McCombs Ranches of Johnson City, owned by the San Antonio entrepreneur and owner of the Minnesota Vikings football team.

In 1995, the Star-Telegram made the winning bid on Rusty at a charity auction, and the good-natured steer was soon carrying out various public duties.

“I think Rusty has added a lot to our image and our brand in the community,” said Wes Turner, the paper’s president and publisher. “At any event with children, you’d see the pure joy in kids running up, calling his name. It was part of Fort Worth’s ‘culture and cowboys.’ ”

And just as the University of Texas at Austin replaces its mascot when a Bevo retires, “we have to find Rusty II,” Turner said.


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