“Everything’s bigger in Texas!” Have y’all heard that a few times? Well, here’s a perfect example: in the heart of South Texas there’s a ranch that’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island! It’s the world famous, 825,000 acre King Ranch!
The heritage of King Ranch is a fascinating and critical part of Texas history which is why it’s both a national historic landmark and a popular tourist attraction. In 1853, a successful steamboat captain named Richard King purchased 15,000 acres of untamed land along the Santa Gertrudis Creek. He bought cattle from an impoverished village in Mexico to stock his new ranch. While driving his herd back home, he came to the realization that he just took away the villagers’ main means of survival, so he headed back and invited the people to come work for him on his ranch. Many accepted his offer and became known as Los Kineños, Spanish for the King’s men. They began by raising Texas Longhorns, but later the ranch developed its own breed, the Santa Gertrudis, which is regarded as the first new breed of beef cattle in America! Later generations developed more cattle breeds, planted crops and even raised thoroughbred horses, including Assault, who won the Triple Crown in 1946.
Today, King Ranch is a thriving, working facility. If you really want to feel like you’re back in the Old West, when cattle barons owned land as far as the eye could see and dusty cowboys ruled the plains, then you owe it to yourself to visit this amazing place! Daily tours show the horse and cattle breeds on the ranch, demonstrate the modern equipment and ranching techniques used, and point out the plentiful and varied wildlife. You’ll also see the horse cemetery, auction area and several original, 19th century buildings on the land.
There is so much more history here, including how part of the ranch was donated and became the town of Kingsville. For that, I would suggest visiting their museum, where you can view videos about the history of the Ranch, and see many artifacts, including saddles from around the world, an impressive gun collection, carriages, vintage cars and much more.
If you can, rustle up your family and friends and stop by this weekend, November 21-23, because that’s when Kingsville celebrates the Ranch Hand Festival. The highlight promises to be the annual Ranch Hand Breakfast on Saturday from 7-11 AM. You’ll get to taste an authentic cowboy breakfast, cooked and served right at the Ranch. The festival will also feature cooking demonstrations, entertainment, exhibitions of roping and other cowboy skills, arts and crafts vendors, shopping, country music…something for the cowboy in all of us!