- Corn Ranch, also known as Launch Site One, is a spaceport owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
- La Escalera Ranch covers 5 counties, and the entrance is home to the Sierra Madera Crater where a meteorite struck.
- The Kokernot 06 Ranch, which spans 278,000 acres of beautiful, rugged terrain, is in West Texas. Many movies and commercials have been filmed there.
- Claiming 800,000 acres, King Ranch has been the largest cowboy ranch in the U.S. for more than 160 years.
What’s more Texas than cowboys, beef, and billionaires? How about all of them put together? In a state where everything is done big, it’s no surprise that Texas has more farms, ranches, and cattle than any other state in America.
Agriculture is one of the world’s most essential industries, making it an excellent investment. But ranching is more than just a paycheck for Texans — it’s a way of life. Over 93% of Texas land is privately owned, and the generations of Texans raising their families on these ranches understand the importance of stewardship.
Check out the 12 largest ranches in Texas and learn about this fascinating way of life in the Lone Star State. Here’s a quick overview chart to get you started:
12. Corn Ranch – 165,000 Acres
Corn Ranch, also known as Launch Site One, is a spaceport owned by billionaire and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. It’s located in West Texas near the small town of Van Horn, and the ranch is mainly desolate land, except for launch pads and rocket engine test stands. Bezos bought the property with the goal of colonizing space. While Corn Ranch may not be traditional, it’s focused on creating a new industry to better humanity.
11. La Escalera – 223,000 Acres
La Escalera Ranch covers portions of five counties. The Gerald Lyda family owns more than 223,000 acres near Fort Stockton, Texas. It was initially owned by a California-based land and cattle company for almost 100 years before Lyda purchased it. Lyda’s sons now operate the ranch, which is considered one of the largest cattle ranches in the Southwest. The land has a herd of Black Angus cattle and plenty of wildlife. The Sierra Madera Crater (meteorite crater) is at the entrance to the ranch.
10. Jones Family Ranch – 255,000 Acres
The Jones Family Ranch was once over 300,000 acres nestled next to two rivers near Corpus Christi. W.W. Jones settled the land in the 1890s and established Alta Vista Ranch as its 34,000-acre headquarters. This land had a post office, general store, and structures from the Spanish/Mexican colonial era. The ranches produce oil, and the descendants of W.W. Jones still live on the land, offering nightly stays at their main ranch house. The family is committed to protecting agriculture and wildlife in the area.
9. The Four Sixes Ranch (6666) – 266,000 Acres
Captain Samuel Burnett founded the famous Burnett Ranches in 1870, encompassing over 260,000 miles. The ranch is in the western part of the state and includes 119 pastures, 16,000 acres of grasslands, 18 solar wells, and 29 windmills. But it’s known for producing some of the country’s best race and ranch horses. There are up to 100 employees, at least 20 of which are real-life cowboys. Burnett started his ranch with only 100 cattle and grew it into one of the biggest in the state.
8. Kokernot 06 Ranch – 278,000 Acres
The Kokernot 06 Ranch is in West Texas in the Davis Mountains. The family that currently owns the land acquired it in 1912, and it has been a staple in West Texas ranching for more than a century. Movies and commercials are often filmed in this rugged landscape, and the owners also offer many activities for the public. Serious hunters can participate in trophy hunting for big game, or you can hike, ride horses, and take tours via ATV.
7. Nunley Brothers – 301,500 Acres
Red Nunley began in the 1930s as a small cattle operator and developed a cattle empire that now spans South Texas and parts of Hill Country. His grandsons took over the business in the early 1980s, and today customers can order premium beef online through their website. Generations of Nunley family members help in all aspects of ranching, empowering their sons and daughters to continue the family tradition.
6. Longfellow Ranch – 350,000 Acres
Longfellow Ranch is a 350,000-acre ranch in West Texas in the center of Big Bend country. It’s a working cattle ranch with an oil field and a 4,700-foot five-star lodge. The luxurious lodge is open for corporate events and guests and includes high-end dining. Visitors can enjoy wildlife tours and five-stand shooting. They can take in the sights of remote and rugged Texas while relaxing in comfortable suites.
5. Hughes Ranch – 390,000 Acres
Dan Hughes was an oil and gas tycoon, and his son was once chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. Their 390,000-acre property is mainly used for personal purposes, but the family also sells cattle and hunting licenses.
4. Waggoner Ranch – 535,000 Acres
Dan Waggoner established Waggoner Ranch in 1849 near Vernon, Texas. His son took over operations in the early 1900s and grew the business to what it is today. They won many awards for their cattle and horses over the years, and the company’s main interests include oil, ranching, and cultivation. In 2016, Waggoner descendants sold the ranch to LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
3. O’Connor Family Ranch – 587,000 Acres
Thomas O’Connor was a poor Irish rancher who immigrated to Texas in 1834. The Mexican government granted him over 4,000 acres, which he utilized to make saddletrees. Part of his dowry payment was ranch cattle and horses, which eventually grew to number over 100,000. By the time of his death, he was a millionaire and one of the state’s most significant land and cattle owners. His family heirs still run this 587,000-acre ranch and are involved in their local community.
2. Briscoe Ranches – 640,000 Acres
The Briscoes are a prominent Texas ranching family who began buying land for their cattle business in the early 20th century. Generations have continued to run the family business, which includes 15,000 cattle and over 640,000 acres of land. The Briscoes are one of the wealthiest families in the country, and they have donated millions to art and history institutions in Texas.
1. King Ranch – 825,000 Acres
When they said everything’s bigger in Texas, they weren’t kidding. King Ranch is the largest ranch in the United States. At over 800,000 acres, the ranch is the size of the state of Rhode Island. It’s been in business for 160 years, and in that time, it led cattle drives (some of the first), developed cattle breeds, and produced championship thoroughbred horses. Today the King Ranch has its main interests in cattle ranching, farming, luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
Summary of the 12 Largest Ranches in Texas
|1||King Ranch||The Kleburg Family||800,000|
|2||Briscoe Ranches||The Briscoe Family||640,000|
|3||O’Connor Family Ranch||The O’Connor Family||587,000|
|4||Waggoner Ranch||Stan Kroenke||535,000|
|5||Hughes Ranch||Dan A. Hughes, Jr.||390,000|
|6||Longfellow Ranch||Longfellow Ranch Partnership||350,000|
|7||Nunley Brothers||The Nunley Family||301,500|
|8||Kokernot 06 Ranch||Chris Lacy and the Kokernot Family||278,000|
|9||The Four Sixes Ranch (6666)||Taylor Sheridan and investors||260,000|
|10||Jones Family Ranch||The Jones Family||255,000|
|11||La Escalera||The Lyda Family||223,000|
|12||Corn Ranch||Jeff Bezos||165,000|
Other Ranches Worthy of Mention:
There are many large ranches in Texas, so we’d like to add a few more to our list as some of them were founded long ago and by famous people.
- The East Family Ranch is spread over eight counties, but adds up to 340,000 acres in total. Its primary business is in not only cattle, but also oil and gas.
- The Reynolds Family Ranch was founded in 1884 in the Davis Mountains, near Fort Griffin. It is a cow-calf operation with 250,000 acres located in four counties.
- The A. S. Gage Ranch is a cow-calf operation that consists of 190,000 acres in two counties. It was founded in 1883 and was once 400,000 acres.
- The Clayton Williams collection of ranches has 183,000 acres in five counties. This cow-calf and yearling operation is more of a hobby for Williams, a former gubernatorial candidate who made his fortune in oil and gas.
- The legendary JA Ranch was founded in 1876 by trailblazer and chuckwagon inventor Charles Goodnight and his partner John Adair. Once as large as 1,300,000 acres, it is now 190,000 acres in Gray County in the Panhandle.
Animals That Live in Texas
Beyond the cattle and horses that call these ranches home, Texas has a large and diverse range of native and introduced species. There are 540 bird species and 142 species of mammals, amphibians, and other animals.
Texas can be dubbed “the battiest state in the nation” as it houses 32 of the 47 species of bats endemic to the U.S. Bracken Cave Preserve, near San Antonio, is the largest bat colony on Earth.
The big predators in this state include wolves, cougars, and ocelots. Venomous snakes such as cottonmouths, copperheads, rattlesnakes, coral snakes, black snakes, and kingsnakes can also be found in Texas.
Its deserts contain the nine-banded armadillo, Texas rat snake, short-lined skink lizard, and some of the world’s rarest amphibians and reptiles.
Animals unique to the Lone Star State include the black-tailed jackrabbit, Texas horned lizard, lightning whelk, and black-tailed prairie dog. You can find more information on the animals in Texas here.
The Texas Longhorn is the Official State Large Mammal
As this list of the 12 largest ranches shows, there is a very rich ranching history in the state. The Texas Longhorn is part of that history and this was recognized when it was designated the state’s official large mammal by the state legislature in 1995.
By the time Texas declared independence from Mexico in 1836, the cattle were present over a wide expanse of the state, from the Red River to the Rio Grande, the Louisiana border in the east, and the upper breaks of the Brazos River in the west.
During the cattle drives in the 1860s and 1870s, the animals traveled long miles in arid conditions.
But over the years ranchers developed a preference for European varieties of cattle that produced more beef over the longhorn. Concerned about the decreasing population, enthusiasts from the U.S. Forest Service collected a small herd to breed in a wildlife refuge in 1927. Texas author J. Frank Dobie, rancher Graves Peeler, and businessman Sid Richardson banded together to acquire a herd of typical longhorns and gifted them to the Texas Parks Board to serve as the state herd in 1941. Their efforts saved the Texas Longhorn from near extinction.
Other official state animals include the northern mockingbird, which is the state bird, and the Mexican free-tailed bat, which serves as the state flying mammal. Read more about Texas’s official state animals here.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © chaowat kawera/Shutterstock.com
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