Bovina is on U.S. Highway 60 between two forks of Running Water Draw in western Parmer County. Originally the community was the Hay Hook Line Camp of the XIT Ranch, and the ranch headquarters was one of the county's earliest buildings. When the Pecos and Northern Texas Railway was built through the ranch in 1898 a switch was placed at the site to be used by cowboys to unload cottonseed shipped in as feed. Some of this feed was invariably spilled along the tracks, causing XIT cattle to gather at the unfenced right-of-way. Often they lay down, compelling railroad workers to get off their trains and prod them off the tracks. As a result the site was labeled Bull Town, a name replaced by the more elegant Bovina when the post office was established on January 31, 1899. Bovina soon experienced a boom and for a time shipped a larger volume of cattle than any other shipping point in the world.
By the time settlers began moving into the area around 1905, two churches had been organized and a school started. In addition Bovina had a general store, a livery barn, a barbershop, and a boardinghouse where travelers, most of whom brought their own bedding, were accommodated with meals. As land sales increased, a bank, a second hotel, and numerous residences were built. The South and West Land Company established its headquarters at Bovina, and school facilities were enlarged to meet the needs of a rapidly growing populace. By 1915 the town had about 200 residents.
Although the boom leveled off after World War I, Bovina remained an important agricultural and livestock marketing center. In 1948 it was incorporated, with J. W. Kimbrow as mayor. At the same time the residents organized a volunteer fire department and voted for bonds to install a modern water system. Previously, water had been obtained from tanks rented from the Santa Fe Railroad. A weekly newspaper, the Bovina Blade, was established in 1955, and during the 1960s ambulance service was started. A medical clinic was established in 1966 with funds from the Sears Foundation. In the mid-1980s Bovina had twenty-eight businesses, four churches, and a three-acre city park. Its high school girls' track team won notice as the 1978 Class A state champions. Annual events included a Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture Banquet in March and the Fourth of July Celebration. A historic marker, featuring a longhorn bull statue, recalls the Bull Town era. Bovina's population was 1,029 in 1960, 1,499 in 1980, 1,549 in 1990, and 1,874 in 2000.