A big Texas landmark – Kingsville, TX

They say everything in Texas is big, and one of the things the state is known for is its super-sized ranches.  The size of the state itself lends it perfectly to the industry of raising cattle. The massive King Ranch in southern Texas – covering more area than the state of Rhode Island, and with more acreage than Dallas, Houston and San Antonio combined – is a prime example of a huge cattle-raising operation.

King Ranch Visitor Center

Neither Steve nor I are particularly interested in ranching, but when our friends Susan and Bob drove down from San Antonio to meet us in Kingsville, we decided to head over to King Ranch and take a tour together.  We were glad we did!

King Ranch Visitor Center
With Bob and Susan

King ranch isn’t owned by a king, but it is the result of a classic “rags to riches” story involving an indentured servant with that name.  A boy of Irish descent stowed himself away on a boat which landed in New York City.  He was discovered hiding among the cargo, but was able to make his way to Mobile, Alabama.

King Ranch
Just a few of the fine cattle here.  Honey, steak for dinner tonight!

Starting as a steamboat cabin boy and eventually becoming a steamboat pilot, Captain Richard King made his mark by purchasing a 15,500-acre Mexican land grant that would become the King Ranch.  By the end of the Civil War in 1865, subsequent purchases grew the ranch to 146,000 acres, making it a powerhouse in Texas through the breeding of livestock.

Texas Longhorn
Poncho – a handsome resident Texas Longhorn

At one time King Ranch was the world’s largest ranch, and famous for breeding livestock – developing the Santa Gertrudis type of cattle which are shorthorn cows of a southern beef breed – the first ever American-bred cattle.  The breed is noted for heat tolerance as well as tick and bloat resistance.

Santa Gertrudis Cow
“Hey, you talkin’ to me?”  A Santa Gertrudis cow

Known for its “Running W” brand, the ranch continues its operations on 825,000 acres (1,289 sq. miles), and does much more than just raise cattle.  They are known for their quarter horses, cutting horses and thoroughbreds as well, and they raised the racing horse named “Assault”, the 1946 Triple-Crown winner.

The ranch isn’t one single contiguous plot of land, but rather four large sections they call divisions.  It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961.

King Ranch
The “Running W” brand

We also learned on the tour that King Ranch is the largest individual citrus grower in the country and the largest producer of turf grass.  It has 2000 miles of fencing and approximately 50,000 head of cattle.  Today’s modern King Ranch is also a wildlife habitat and a ranch management institute, as well as a highly regulated hunting venue.  It has diversified into a major agribusiness – everything about King Ranch is BIG!

King Ranch

Running W
“Running W” on a Ford truck seat

We now know that Ford King Ranch® Edition F-Series trucks and Expeditions were inspired by this very ranch.  It may be the only working ranch that has it’s name on Ford trucks.  Ford and King Ranch have been in partnership since 2001, and as you might have guessed King Ranch trucks are especially popular in Texas. Ford says more than 40% of all Super Duty King Ranch pickups are sold in the Lone Star State.

King Ranch
King Ranch® Edition F-Series commercials were filmed right here on the ranch

After our tour we tried to grapple with the massive size of this ranch, especially since we had seen only a portion of the empire.  It turned out to be an interesting tour, and a good way to learn a bit of Texas ranching history.  If you happen to be in the Kingsville area and are interested in ranching or birding, several tours are available.

Thornless Prickley Pear
A Thornless Prickly Pear Cactus seen at the entry gate

Next we followed Bob and Susan to the Texas A&M University campus, where we took some pictures with the school’s mascot, the Javelina.

Travel Bug Susan
Susan and Bob

Our current home base was only 25 minutes away at Seawind RV resort (Steve’s review here ), so we invited our friends to come over and check it out.  The RV park is next to the Kaufer-Hubert County Park and right on Baffin Bay, which is one of many stops along the Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

I was happy that some of my feathered friends welcomed Bob and Susan, like this cute guy:

Long billed Curlew
Long-billed Curlew
Riviera Fishing Pier
Checking out the fishing pier at Kaufer-Hubert County Park
Riviera Beach
What they are gazing at – birds or clouds?

To find out what Susan is taking a picture of, check her blog at Travel Bug.  If not for their visit we wouldn’t have learned so much about a big Texas landmark.  In case you’re wondering, we first met Susan and Bob in San Antonio two years ago, and they were our gracious tour guides while we were in the area.  Here is my post about our fun times together in 2013.

Sunset at Riviera, Texas
A final sunset at Riviera, Texas

Our two-week stay in Riviera just flew by.  Taking advantage of several nice days, Steve was happy to be able to check several items off of Betsy’s winter “to-do” list, and we got in several walks and a bike ride.  Next we’ll be heading down to hang out in the Rio Grande Valley for a month, then start yet another long migration north.






  1. Well, I know everything in Texas is super-sized, but that ranch is beyond enormous! Are the cattle grass fed? I would imagine they are, given the acreage they have to roam. Love your photo of the curlew—we just saw them in Morro Bay, too.

  2. What a great reunion with Susan and Bob. I love your first two pictures. That’s a great one of the four of you. Your longhorn picture and your curlew are fantastic too. Looks like a great time and a very interesting tour.

  3. I have been to Texas several times… and Longhorns can sometimes be hard to find. As they are hard to take care of, feed etc because of their horns. I have seen the short horned more often. I remember when a friend of mine who happens to take care of a ranch took me out to feed the longhorn. I thought nothing of it until that long horned animal turned… I about got my head cut off. This city slicker jumped right back into the truck! A big chicken after that! HA HA
    Thank you for the tour! 🙂

  4. Being a vegan it hard for me to not feel sorry for the cows. I believe all animals deserve to live a long happy life. I’m glad you are having a good time in Texas. Tell Steve I got a part-time job as and after school teacher.

  5. Great blog, MonaLiza. You did an excellent job telling the history of Captain King and how he got his start. We’re happy that we took the tour too. I would love to go back to do a birding tour.

    Thanks for the shout outs. Now that your blog is up, I can put in a link to yours on my blog. Enjoy your time in the Valley.

  6. We have passed that Ranch at least four times and still haven’t visited it. Back on our list of “must see.”

    Can’t wait to get your take on the RGV. We love all our friends in Mission but not thrilled with the lack of beauty in the area.

  7. Thanks for the tour, we’re planning on a trip there in Feb. Think Sue & Bob are visiting this area next weekend.

  8. So much history at the Ranch…always ideal when local tour guides show you some hidden gems!!!

  9. What a neat ranch tour! Richard King sure had a golden touch. While we aren’t into ranching at all, it is always fun to tour anything new and see how it works. Thanks for the great background info. It’s always fun to meet with blogger friends:)

  10. Largest individual citrus grower in the country … that alone tells how big this ranch is. Pretty impressive from a humble beginning.

  11. A ranch tour… who would have thought! It sounded really interesting and I loved the back stories. I am very thankful that bloggers like you and Ingrid are writing of their Texas adventures. John and I have so many more places to check out!!

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