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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.