Dan Thornton

February 20, 2017

Dan Thornton (1911-1976) was devoted to the Hereford industry and bred some of the best Hereford cattle in the world. His many honors and world records speak for themselves. Thornton started in the Hereford business in 1937, purchasing a ranch near Springerville, Ariz., and naming it the White Mountain Hereford Ranch. In 1941 the Thornton family moved their ranching operation to Gunnison, Colo., where they bred their Triumphant Type cattle. At its peak the Thornton Hereford Ranch included 300 head of Hereford females. “It has been my idea to blend top individuals of the best producing bloodlines from the principal herds of America into an ideal Hereford type,” Thornton said in a 1942 Hereford Journal. In 1945 Thornton sold two bulls for $50,000 each in Denver, the highest price paid for a U.S. beef animal up to that time according to his biography. These two bulls were the first to be displayed at the Brown Palace Hotel in downtown Denver. In 1947 the Thornton Hereford Ranch sale generated more than $850,000 for 392 head. A crowd of some 4,000 people attended. Many consider it one of the greatest production sales in history. Thornton also served as a Colorado senator and a two-term Colorado governor. “Dan Thornton loved Hereford cattle, was a visionary for the industry and also served the people of Colorado,” says Debra Raymond of the Colorado Hereford Association. In 1953 Thornton dispersed the registered herd. From 1953-57 the ranch was managed as a commercial Hereford operation. “You’d have to have met him personally and seen him ‘in action’ to properly appreciate his influence, but Dan Thornton was a tremendously enthusiastic, charismatic individual,” says Dan Green, editor and publisher of the Record Stockman. “He used that innate, God-given charm and sense of public relations to promote Hereford cattle, as few men ever have.”