No trip to south Texas is complete without visiting the famous King Ranch.
When I arrived in Texas I heard regular mention of “King Ranch”: King Ranch Ford trucks, King Ranch clothing, King Ranch accessories, etc. What started as a small cattle operation over 150 years ago is now a major cattle breeding and merchandising empire.
Merchandise sporting the King Ranch logo includes: Clothing, office accessories, hats (cowboy, of course), boots, and a special line of Ford trucks. Owning something with the King Ranch logo is a status symbol somewhat akin to owning a Coach handbag or an Armani suit. There aren’t many BMWs or Mercedes in the Texas country, but there are plenty of King Ranch Ford F-350s, standardly equipped with a Ranch Hand bumper, leather seats and distinctive two-tone paint.
It wasn’t until sometime later I learned King Ranch is more than a fancy brand name, it’s a working cattle and horse ranch – and quite a large one at that. With over 35,000 cattle and 200 horses, King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the world. It encompasses over 825,000 acres in South Texas alone. How the ranch began is an intriguing story that starts with a young runaway.
A Brief History of King Ranch
The story begins in the 1830’s with Richard King, an 11 year-old indentured into the service of a harsh New York jeweler. His independent nature already taking hold, he stowed away on a south-bound ship. He eventually became captain of a steam boat, moved to south Texas, and started a shipping line on the Rio Grande River with his friend Mifflin Kenedy.
In 1853, King purchased 15,500 acres with business partner Gideon Lewis, the first piece of the King Ranch. Over the years, adjacent land has been purchased, as well as all over the U.S. The ranch specializes is breeding some of the finest cattle and horses, and is also the largest producer of orange juice in the country. Add to that: pecans, publishing, hardware, and hunting.
Of course, it is in a town called Kingsville. Wouldn’t you name a town after yourself if you could?
See the ranch via a 1.5-hour van ride around the grounds, or a 4-hour special interest tour. Several hunting tours are also available. Visit www.king-ranch.com for more info. And don’t miss the small King Ranch museum on 6th Street in downtown Kingsville.
Come along on the next adventure as I visit a giant squirrel in Sinton, Texas.
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Read how it all began: Strange RV Encounters: An Introduction.