Discover the Largest Ranch in the United States

Written by Kyle Glatz
Updated: September 14, 2023
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Key Points

  • A ranch is a type of farm designed to raise livestock that requires a large tract of land and a large source of water. There are 4 types of ranches.
  • The largest ranch in the U.S. was created by a steamboat captain who used his good fortune to start a ranching empire.
  • The largest ranch in the world is in Australia, and it is larger than Israel and the state of New Hampshire.

Although the coasts of the United States are known for their large metropolitan areas, the middle of the nation has vast sections of open land. In some of the larger states, like Texas and Montana, vast ranches have been established to provide ranging land for cattle, sheep, horses, and more. Today, we’re going to discover the largest ranch in the United States.

We’ll show you where the ranch is, its size, and what operations they conduct!

What is a Ranch?

Longhorn cattle

Ranches are often used to raise livestock.


A ranch is a type of farm designed to raise livestock such as sheep, cattle, and horses. Ranches require large tracts of land for the animals to graze and move about along with a large source of water. Some ranches include irrigated land that enables the owner to raise crops to help feed the animals that live on the land.

These massive lands require careful management of the land by the ranchers. After all, feeding, housing, and maintaining the health of hundreds or thousands of animals can be exceedingly difficult.

What Types of Ranches Exist?

Cowpens National Battlefield

Some ranches are educational centers while others let people take part in ranch operations.

© Nix

Not all ranches have the same purpose. Some of them are simply livestock ranches that are designed to help raise cows for dairy farming and others are designed to raise prized horses. Let’s take a look at a few of the most common types of ranches.

Livestock Ranch

As the name suggests, livestock ranches are those where people raise farm animals. Sometimes, the ranches will stick to raising a single type of animal so they can focus all their efforts on raising them. You may see a cattle ranch or a horse ranch.

Some livestock ranches mix up the types of animals they house. Some people may have ranches full of sheep or goats for wool production while also using mixed farming to grow crops, raise other livestock, and use animal manure as fertilizer.

Livestock ranches are very common throughout the U.S., and they help bolster the meat and dairy industries throughout the nation.

Game Ranch

Game ranches are those that are used for hunting. They are also called hunting ranches. These ranches vary from place to place around the world. In some areas, they are akin to safaris where people can stay and hunt imported animals. However, these types of ranches are not common in the United States.

That being said, there are game ranches where people can stay in rural areas for hunting. These can range from amenity-laden playgrounds for wealthy hunters to simple accommodations that hunters can use to seek their game of choice.

Game ranches are widespread and gaining popularity.  

Guest Ranch/Dude Ranch

Another major type of ranch is called a guest ranch, also known as a dude ranch. A dude ranch is specifically geared toward entertaining out-of-towners and people interested in the life of being on a ranch. Some of them are working ranches in which vacationers take an active part in working. Others teach horseback riding or simply act as resorts.

You will often find various amenities such as cabins to sleep in, gift shops, guided horse rides, and demonstrations of ranch life. Every dude ranch is different, but they all have the same goal: to give people a taste of what it’s like to live on a modern ranch or those of the past.

That might mean you assist ranchers in milking cows or witnessing the birth of livestock. Going to a dude ranch is a fantastic way to get a good look at what ranching is all about.

What is the Largest Ranch in the United States?

King Ranch Main House

King Ranch is the largest ranch in the United States.

©Darryn Rose / CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

King Ranch is the largest ranch in the United States, stretching over 825,000 acres (almost 1,300 square miles) of land in South Texas. That is an area of land larger than the state of Rhode Island. The ranch is spread over four divisions called the Santa Gertrudis Division, Laureles Division, Encino Division, and Norias Division.

This was the first new breed of beef cattle developed in the U.S., the Santa Gertrudis breed, took place on the ranch.

About King Ranch

The King Ranch is primarily a cattle ranch, and it is the home of 35,000 cattle as well as 200 quarter horses. The history of the ranch is fascinating. Originally, King Ranch was created by a man named Richard King, a steamboat captain. In 1853, he used money from his steamboat business to purchase the first 75,000 acres of land of what would later become a ranching empire.

By the time the Civil War had ended, he had accumulated over 146,000 acres of land and began to lead some of the first cattle drives throughout the state. Richard King began to develop other infrastructure to help get his products to cities for sale. That included vertical integration of railroads, the redevelopment of the harbor at Corpus Christi, and the creation of packing houses.

His ranch led the way in research to improve the breed of cattle and horses raised by his farms. The fruit of King’s labor would eventually produce the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle. This was the first new breed of beef cattle developed in the U.S. Along with cattle, King Ranch led the way in horse breeding programs, developing a potent line of quarter horses and thoroughbreds including a Triple Crown winner.

Currently, King Ranch remains a massive operation that produces cattle, horses, luxury saddles, unique grasses, and more while continuing to emphasize stewardship of its environment. The ranch offers tours, educational opportunities, and careers to those interested in working in this challenging field.  

What is the Largest Ranch in the World?

Anna Creek Station

Anna Creek Station is a vast, remote ranch in Australia.

©Kerry_Raymond / Creative Commons – License

The largest ranch in the world is Anna Creek Station, a cattle ranch operating in Australia. This ranch measures 2,000,000 acres or 3,100 square miles, larger than Israel and the state of New Hampshire. The ranch is located in a very remote part of the country called South Australia. This portion of the country has less than 2,000,000 residents.

Interestingly, the Anna Creek Station raises the Santa Gertrudis cattle that were developed on King Ranch. These cattle are known for being resistant to hot and dry climates. These qualities make them the ideal breed to survive in Australia.

Anna Creek Station was sold in 2016, and it is now owned by Williams Cattle Company.

Where is King Ranch Located on a Map?

King Ranch is the largest ranch in the United States, located in South Texas. The ranch is spread over four divisions called the Santa Gertrudis Division, Laureles Division, Encino Division, and Norias Division. Its size is more than 825,000 acres. It’s not too far from Corpus Christi and the Gulf of Mexico.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Kyle Glatz is a writer at A-Z-Animals where his primary focus is on geography and mammals. Kyle has been writing for researching and writing about animals and numerous other topics for 10 years, and he holds a Bachelor's Degree in English and Education from Rowan University. A resident of New Jersey, Kyle enjoys reading, writing, and playing video games.

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