When my dad retired, my parents spent several winters exploring the southern United States. Upon hearing we were going to Texas this winter, my mom told me to make sure and visit King Ranch.
Friday was forecast to be another beautiful day, so we headed to Kingsville to tour the ranch. It took us a little over an hour to get there. Along the way we saw many, many acres of farm fields.
We arrived just in time to board the small bus for the 1.5 hour tour. The cost was $12 per person.
King Ranch was founded by Richard King in 1853. He was born to poor Irish immigrants in New York. At the age of 9 he was indentured to a jeweler who didn’t treat him well. So, when he was 11 years old he ran away, and stowed away on a ship headed to Alabama. He ended up working on ships and became a successful captain. At 29 years old, he was in Texas and saw the potential for ranching. He bought two large plots of land and became a rancher. His story is quite amazing.
The ranch now covers 825,000 acres in southern Texas. They also own 75,000 acres in Florida. It is a private corporation. The family no longer runs the ranch, but all shareholders are descendants of Richard King. Some of the employees are 7th generation descendants from Mexican families Richard King brought to the ranch to help him work it.
The main business of the ranch is cattle. They have about 60,000 head of Santa Gertrudis cattle. About half of the cattle are sold for their meat and the other half are used for breeding purposes.
Originally Richard King raised Longhorn cattle. They were the only breed that could withstand the weather conditions in south Texas. However, the meat was very tough. In the early 1900s they developed a new breed by breeding Brahma and Shorthorn cattle together. This was the first time in over a century that a new breed of cattle had been developed. The breed was very successful.
There is still a small herd of Longhorn on the ranch. Our tour guide told us that many ranchers in Texas keep small herds of Longhorn for historic and tourist purposes.
Aren’t the babies cute!
At one point, there were thousands of quarter horses on the ranch for the cowboys to ride. Now vehicles and even planes are used more than horses. However, they still have about 200 of the horses for breeding and for the 200 cowboys working the ranch to ride.
We saw some Sandhill Cranes on the ranch. Our guide told us that this is the second year of drought. In a normal year there would be thousands of the cranes. This year there are just a few.
We also saw some wild Javelinas. I was excited about that. We had only seen them in captivity, and I was really hoping to see some in the wild.
There was a chuck wagon on display at the visitor center. Although the ranch has had a number of brands, the longest lasting one is the rolling W. It was chosen because its very difficult for cattle rustlers to change the design.
The family home is over 30,000 square feet in size. It is no longer occupied full time, but is used by family members as a vacation home. It is surrounded by large trees so I am including a picture of a photo in the visitor center.
This building is the oldest on the property. It was used as a commissary for the hundreds of ranch workers. There is still a village on the property for ranch workers to live in with about 100 families living on the property. They even have their own school in Kingsville.
We enjoyed our visit to King Ranch, and would recommend it as an interesting place to visit in south Texas.
Don’t wish upon a star – Reach for one!