In the Saddle for More Than a Century
Centuries of livestock-raising across the Texas landscape has made ranching a primary player in the state’s evolving legacy. More than 96 percent of Texas abides in private hands, giving historians (and landowners) an opportunity to trace the lineage of ranchland holdings back several hundred years.
In South Texas, ranches are rooted in Spanish land grants. In the western and Panhandle regions, some of the largest ranches originated with Anglo settlers and ownership in excess of a hundred thousand acres was not uncommon.
Remarkably, many of our oldest ranches are still in operation, headed by the descendents of the patriarchs and matriarchs who championed the challenges of ranching in the rough days of our frontier. Although few of the staggeringly large family landholdings are still intact, many descendents continue the ranching operations on a smaller and more updated scale, adopting modern conservation practices that make the best use of the remaining grazing lands without compromising tradition.
Today, the largest historic ranch in Texas is the W.T. Waggoner south of Vernon. At over half a million contiguous acres, the Waggoner is considered the largest ranch in the nation under one fence.
Read more about ranching in the Handbook of Texas Online.