The biggest ranches in the world offer a picturesque experience that is unlike any other. In these places, it’s easy to imagine how life may have been during the glory days of the Wild West.
The great thing about ranches is that they preserve and protect animals and various endangered species, as the vast chunk of land serves as their home. In this article, learn about the largest cattle ranches in the United States and the largest one in the world.
What is a Ranch?
Many people confuse ranch with farmland, but there’s a bit of difference between the two. Ranches are places where animals are raised, while farms are dedicated to crops and animals that are reproduced to create food. It can get tricky because they often overlap. While both places are used to raise animals, farms are more devoted to agriculture, while ranches are given primarily to ranching.
Ranching is the practice of raising grazing livestock such as sheep and cattle. People who own, manage or operate a ranch are called ranchers, cattlemen, or stock growers. While the livestock aspect of farming handles common farm animals like cows and chickens – ranching is a method used to raise livestock such as horses, cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, bison, and even exotic animals such as elk, alpaca, ostrich, emu, and wolves.
There are times when ranching raises livestock and wildlife for their meat, dairy, skin, and other raw materials for fabrics. Meanwhile, some ranches that are called “dude ranches” offer tourist facilities and activities, like horseback riding, trail rides, or hunting. Some even allow guests to help out in ranching activities.
Largest Cattle Ranches in the US
You can find a lot of ranches in the United States, but here are some of the largest ones:
Spanning around 825,000 acres of land, King Ranch is the biggest ranch in the United States and one of the world’s largest ranches. However, it’s not one big chunk of land – it’s split into four neighboring parts located in South Texas between Brownsville and Corpus Christi. It occupies portions of six Texas counties. It’s also one of the most diverse ranches, as it houses a variety of business operations instead of making it one massive area full of cattle roaming around.
The ranch has been involved in ranching and raising cattle, including Triple Crown-winning racehorse Assault. Some parts are used as farmland, growing sugar cane, sweet corn, green bean, sod, citrus, cotton, and lettuce. In this ranch, you can also find a nursery business, hardware store, and the King Ranch Saddle Shop. Overall, King Ranch is considered the birthplace of ranching in North America.
Unsurprisingly, the largest ranch in the United States within one fence is in Texas. The Waggoner Ranch is a 535,000-acre ranch that stretches into six counties and is half as large as Rhode Island. It’s located west of Wichita Falls, south of Vernon, near the Red River. The ranch’s headquarters is located in Vernon, Texas.
The primary purpose of the ranch is for ranching, oil, and agricultural preservation. In 1852, this ranch was established by Daniel Waggoner. It has been on the news in recent years as it was listed on the real estate market with an asking price of 4725 million in 2014. It was eventually bought by billionaire Stan Kroenke, owner of several sports teams, in 2016.
Vermejo Park Ranch
This 560,000-acre ranch located in Southern Colorado to northern New Mexico is nothing short of spectacular. It boasts a diverse terrain spanning from short-grass prairie to alpine tundra mountains to fishable lakes and pristine streams.
Owned by Ted Turner, this ranch is so big that it sprawls across the state borders of Colorado and New Mexico. It’s primarily used for conservation research and ecosystem restoration, but it was opened to guests for hunting, fishing, and natural gas collection. It’s open to the public, and it offers exclusive accommodations with its many lodges, cottages, and mansions. This property also hosts workshops, tours, and even seasonal festivals.
The Mormon church is the largest landholder in Florida because they run the ranching operations of the Deseret Ranches, a 300,000-acre ranch. It’s the largest cattle-producing ranch in the United States as it maintains 44,000 heads of beef cattle.
Owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the ranch spreads over three central Florida counties. About 90 ranchers and their families live on the ranch. It’s a for-profit organization and is not a normal part of the church’s humanitarian efforts. While they do not disclose the ranch’s revenue, a 2001 estimate places it at about $16 million.
The Ladder ranch is a 156,000-acre property in south-central New Mexico. Media mogul Ted Turner owns this ranch land, along with more than 2 million acres of personal and ranch land across seven US states and Argentina.
The property boasts a breathtaking mix of ecosystems ranging from pine forests in the foothills of the mountain to desert grasslands. There are four streams that bisect the ranch, and their restored riparian zones offer a rich habitat for many fish, amphibians, and wildlife. This property was also home to bison until it recently served as a refuge for the endangered Mexican gray wolf.
Four Sixes Ranch
The 6666 Ranch, also known as the Four Sixes Ranch, is a historic ranch in Texas. The main section of the ranch is located in King County, Texas, and it also occupies parts of Carson County and Hutchinson County. It spans 108,000 acres of land and produced the Black Baldy, a cattle breed that is resistant to cedar flies.
This ranch was family-owned from 1870 until it was sold in 2021 to a buyer group represented by filmmaker Taylor Sheridan. Notably, the ranch has become a filming location for Marlboro advertisements in the 60s and 70s and for 70s films like Mackintosh and TJ.
Anna Creek Station
This one’s an extra: Anna Creek Station is not in the United States, but it’s the world’s largest cattle ranch. Located in South Australia, this ranch clocks in at about six million acres – more than seven times the size of King Ranch in Texas. At this size, its land area is slightly larger than the country of Israel.
Anna Creek Station has a blend of sandhill county with large areas of gibber tableland. It first started as a place to raise sheep, but unfortunately, dingoes prey on them, so they switched to raising a much more durable cow.