Cowboys are alive and well here in Texas, if somewhat less visible to the masses. 95% of land in Texas is privately owned, and it’s on some of the largest plots of privately owned land that cattle is still a source of income for many, many people.
Though most native Texans have at least visited small, subsistence ranches at some point in their lives, we’re not talking about your grandfather’s 40 acres here. The ranches on this list are fulling functioning, profitable livestock and oil operations that span in the hundreds of thousands of acres. From San Antonio and Austin to Houston, the Texas Hill Country to Fort Worth, incredible ranches dot the Texas landscape. The combined square footage of the 10 biggest Texas ranches reaches over four million acres or nearly 7,000 square miles. Check out the list to see who made the cut, and how many you’re familiar with.
Located on the South Texas coast near Corpus Christi, the Jones family ranches were founded by W. W. Jones in 1897, on land that had been part of the Las Animas Spanish Land Grant. The real estate still holds structures dating back to the Spanish/Mexican colonial era. The ranches produce oil and welcome guests to stay on the lands’ main ranch house.
Currently owned by Anne Marion, the great-granddaughter of the four sixes hunting ranch founder Samuel Burnett, the Burnett ranches have been operational since 1868. The ranch has two locations, one in Guthrie and one in the panhandle, and the family breeds horses and black Angus cattle.
The Kokernot family have been ranching in Texas since the Republic was formed in 1836. The 06 brand was registered the subsequent year, and the Kokernot heirs are still running the operation today. Located in West Texas near Alpine and Fort Davis, the 06 Ranch runs a cow-calf operation as well as offering hunting leases and excursion services.
Headquartered near Sabinal, Texas, the Nunley brothers ranch lands span from South Texas up to the Hill Country, and out West toward Alpine. The brothers run an immense cow-calf operation of the Santa Gertrudis breed. The Nunley brothers’ grandfather, Red Nunley, started the operation over 70 years ago and partnered with Dolph Briscoe Senior to breed his herd.
Owned by SandRidge Energy founder Malone Mitchell III, the legendary but ailing Longfellow ranches have been transformed into a hunting paradise. Hunters can venture out to the Big Bend region to hunt elk and mule deer, which roam free on the over three hundred thousand acres ranch.
While much of the Hughes ranch is kept for personal use, the family also sells cattle and hunting leases. The Hughes fortune was made in oil and gas by Dan Allen Hughes Senior. His son, Dan Allen Hughes Junior, has served the state of Texas as a commissioner and later a chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission.
Irishman Tom O’Connor showed up in Texas flat broke and died a multimillionaire. Based in the South Texas coastal region, the O’Connor Ranch is home to the Tom O’Connor field, an oil field that has made its owners wealthier than even their forebears could imagine. The O’Connor family have been very civically involved in South Texas. In fact, one heir, T. Michael O’Connor, is currently serving as the Sheriff for Victoria County.
Though the legendary North Texas ranch recently sold to LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke, it still ranks in as number three on our list for its sheer size, as well as its thriving cattle and oil operations. The W.T. Waggoner Ranch is a part of Texas heritage, and in an interview with the Dallas Morning News, a representative for the Waggoner family stated in part, “We are confident that Stan will be a great steward of the Waggoner legacy going forward.“ Kroenke also owns a ranch in Montana.
What would eventually become one of Texas’s largest and most storied ranches began in 1910 when Dolph Briscoe Senior founded the Briscoe Ranch out near Uvalde, Texas. His son and heir Dolph Briscoe Jr. would go on to not only expand the wealth of the ranch itself, but eventually hold office first as a Representative in the Texas Legislature, and then as the Governor of the state of Texas from 1973 to 1979.
As is implied in the oh-so-appropriate name, the King ranch reigns as the indisputable king of Texas ranches. If you aren’t already familiar with Kingsville, and King Ranch Chicken Casserole, the highly recognizable running W brand has even been granted its own line of Ford pickup trucks. With its over nine hundred thousand acres, the King ranch spans across much of South Texas from Corpus Christi to Brownsville. Founded in only eight years after Texas was admitted to the Union, the ranch is still thriving today.