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Christopher Onstott, Associated Press
A Texas longhorn bull approaches rancher Douglas Hunt, who won top awards from the Texas Longhorn Association of America.

ST. GEORGE (AP) — Doug Hunt knows how to breed quality cattle. In fact, he may be the best longhorn breeder in the country.

The Texas Longhorn Association of America awarded the titles of 2007 Horn Showcase Premiere Breeder and 2007 Horn Showcase Premiere Exhibitor last month.

"I like going down there and beating those Texans at their own games, that's what I like," Hunt said.

Doug and his wife, Dianne, brought the bull to the competition along with about 14 other cattle. "We had a whole bunch of ribbons and stuff. I think we took 25 places," Doug said.

Their bull, named Hunt's Commands Respect, has placed for four years in a row, he said.

Doug was raised in Gunlock and now lives in Diamond Valley.

"Well, I worked at it a long time. It's just something I've worked at and finally been able to achieve and be able to make a living out of it, anyway."

The Texas Longhorn Association of America is based in Fort Worth and has members from all over the United States and Canada, said Laura Standley, art director for the association's magazine, Texas Longhorn Trails.

"I did this mostly between 40 and 50 mother cattle, which is amazing," Hunt said. "Most of those Texans that I go against have 300 to 400 head (of cattle)."

The Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America states on its Web site, www.tlbaa.org, that its "purpose is to protect the unique heritage of the Texas longhorn, to preserve the purity of the breed, and to promote Texas longhorns as a distinct breed while encouraging its future through promotion, education and research."

At the competition, which is put on in Texas, judges measure the length of the horns in three different ways. More desirable breeds also have a color in their horns, Standley said.

Standley said she has gotten to know Doug since he joined the association in 2003.

"He's a good man," she said. "He sells a lot of good cattle, and he's well-respected in the breed."

And Doug's cattle don't come cheap.

He just sold half-interest in Hunt's Command Respect for $100,000, he said.

He was also able to sell a heifer and calf pair for $8,000, which is a sign of gained prestige for the breeder.

"Five or six years ago, I couldn't even get $1,000 for a pair," he said.

Doug raises his cows on the pastures he owns in Kanab and Beaver and also allows them to graze on authorized Bureau of Land Management land.

But now, his fields are close to empty.

Doug and Dianne have either sold or leased their cattle to other breeders to prepare to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington state.

Doug said he contacted breeders with "the second and third best bulls next to his" and asked if they would be interested in leasing his heifers.

The Hunts and the lessees will split the calf crop, he said.

Doug said he is excited for the trip but admits it will be difficult to give up the ranch for 24 months.

"It's kind of hard to switch gears. I've been riding a horse for 20 miles a day."

The 70-year-old rancher said the Texas Longhorn Association of America can expect to see him at their competition again when he returns from Washington state.

"I'll work as long as I can get back on my horse," Hunt said. "I expect to be pretty competitive. A lot of the cows I've sold will be (at the competition) next year, and the ones I've leased. We might be pretty competitive even while I'm gone."

Though Hunt has earned a title some work lifetimes to achieve, breeding cattle hasn't always been his main focus.

Before his career became cattle, it was football and politics.

Hunt was the football coach for Dixie High School and an assistant coach for Dixie College, he said.

He also spent eight seasons as the defensive coach at Weber State University in Ogden in the mid-'60s to early '70s, Dianne said.

Hunt said he still spends a lot of time watching football, but if he had to choose between the sport and his cows now, he'd pick the cows.

After coaching, Doug served as Weber County commissioner for six years.

He also served as a representative in the Utah Legislature, Dianne said.

Even after all their career accomplishments, Dianne said their greatest achievement was raising their six kids.

"We're proudest of our family," Dianne said. "No kidding. We have six children, 21 grandkids and three greats."