Today we visited the King Ranch. This ranch covers over 825,000 acres, which is larger than the State of Rhode Island. The ranch has other locations including Florida where their interest includes citrus and sugar cane farms. The ranch in Texas is divided into 4 sections, 2 of the sections are leased out for hunting. The other sections are used to raise cattle (obvious), horses, hay, grasses, and they have their own feedlot. Each of the 4 sections of the Ranch in Texas is at least 200,000 acres.
The ranch is known for the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle, which were developed on the ranch in the 1940s. They are currently developing another breed the Santa Cruz, which has less fat in the meat.
At one time, they bred racing horses. In 1946, their horse Assault was a triple crown winner. As a colt, the horse was injured. It is believed he stepped on a surveyor’s spike. Yet was cared for and went on to be a triple crown winner even with the deformed foot. Today the ranch raises quarter horses, which are a prized animal to have in your stable.
The tour takes about an hour and makes one stop where you get out of the bus. This stop is at the weaver’s house. Inside the small house is a large wooden weaving loom. The loom was used for many years to weave the King Ranch distinctive horse blankets. The blankets are some of the finest woven and are in great demand throughout the horse raising industry. The weaver’s house was where the first of these blankets were made. Interesting stop.
The tour drives by the family home, which is over 37,000 square feet and has 17 bedrooms. The family uses the house when they come to the ranch. It has also been used by the family for weddings and other celebrations.
There are smaller houses on the property that are for the workers, foremen, and ranch manager. When Captain King was starting the ranch, he needed workers. He was in a bar in Mexico when he announced that in the morning anyone that wanted to work for him should meet him outside the hotel. A worker would receive a house, horse, food, and a salary. The next morning there were over 100 people waiting to take him up on his offer. This workforce became known as the kinsenðs (Kings men). Today there are still descendants of these original 100 living and working the ranch.
The tour provides a lot of information about the ranch and its history, but falls short in providing opportunities to interact with the ranch environment – it is a driving tour.
In Kingsville, there is the King Ranch Museum and the King Ranch Saddle Shop. The museum takes about 30 minutes to go through and has some very interesting information and photographs. The design and displays were a joint effort with the King Ranch Museum and the Amon Carter Museum. Very nicely done.
The King Ranch Saddle Shop started out as a saddle shop. The need for saddles to be comfortable to the rider and horse was great. King Ranch craftsmen worked to develop the saddle that is still used today. You can see the saddles being made at the shop. The rest of the shop is filled with King Ranch logoed items. From purses and suitcases made from King cattle, to t-shirts, koozies, and jams. Some very nice furniture and clothing – nothing cheap.
We are enjoying our stay here but will be venturing out to see more of the surrounding areas.