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When you think of the word “ranch,” it probably brings to mind memories of old Western movies with cowboys on horses, herding huge numbers of cattle from one field to another.
Believe it or not, much of this is true! Ranches are extensive farms, especially in the Western United States, where herds of cattle, sheep or horses are raised. In most cases, these ranches are usually occupied by the owner, residing in the ranch house.
Interestingly, Texas has the most cattle in the United States followed by Nebraska, then Kansas. Texas accounts for roughly 13% of the cattle inventory in the United States. It's a safe bet you will find a lot of ranches in the state of Texas.
So, are you curious who owns the largest ranches in the United States?
Here is a list of the 12 largest ranches in the US.
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1. The King Ranch
The King Ranch, owned by the King heirs, is located in Texas. This massive ranch covers 825,000 acres of land! This is larger than the entire state of Rhode Island. Not only is it the largest ranch in Texas, but also one of the largest in the world.
- Approximately 35,000 head of cattle and more than 200 Quarter Horses are raised on the ranch
- Rather than one enormous field with livestock to graze, animals are raised in specific areas of the ranch
- Its owners have changed with the times and diversified their operations in order to meet the demand from various markets
- These include raising cattle, land on which to hunt, growing turf grass, land for quarter horses and farming crops
- Believe it or not, there is also a hardware store, tree nursery business and saddle shop on this property
2. Diamond A Ranch
The Diamond A Ranch has been in operations for years. In fact, since 1987, it has been owned by the Navajo Nation. As the largest cattle ranch in Arizona, it supplies all natural beef to some of the top retailers in the world such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, and Gourmetbeef.com.
- 725,000 acres in Arizona
- Owned by the Navajo Nation since 1987, though ranch operations have been handled by Cholla Livestock LLC since 1982
- Though primarily a cattle ranch, Diamond A Ranch also raises horses and sells them
3. Babbitt Ranches
As one of the longest standing ranches in operation, Babbitt Ranches, approximately 700,000 acres of land, is famous for its sustainability efforts. At Babbitt Ranches, the owners and operators make wildlife conservation a top priority.
- 700,000 acres in Arizona
- Babbitt Ranches has been in operation since 1886
- Currently has about 8,000 cattle grazing the land
4. The Waggoner Ranch
Ranches are most commonly used to raise cattle and/or horse. On Waggoner Ranch, they do a little bit of everything. In addition to raising cattle and horse, they also grow a variety of crops and also engage in oil production.
- This historic North Texas ranch encompasses 510,527 acres
- Located 13 miles south of Vernon, Texas
- It spans six counties across Northern Texas
- It was notable for being the largest ranch under one fence in the United States
5. Hughes Ranch
Like other ranches in this list, Hughes Ranch also raises cattle. However, much of the land is actually reserved for personal use, though they do actually offer exclusive private land hunts for elk, mule deer, and black bear.
- Hughes Ranches, LLC is a family operated ranch located south of Norwood, Colorado
- The Hughes fortune was made in oil and gas by Dan Allen Hughes Senior
- The Hughes family has been using conservation management practices to balance the production of high quality Angus beef and maintaining a safe, protected habitat for wildlife
- While primarily a cow/calf operation, Hughes Ranches, LLC is a licensed outfitter with the State of Colorado and offers fair chase hunting
6. Nunley Brothers Ranch
The Nunley Brothers Ranch spans over 301,500 acres located in Texas. This ranch is famous for its cattle.
- Headquartered near Sabinal, Texas, the Nunley Brothers ranch lands spans from South Texas up to the Hill Country, and out West toward Alpine
- The brothers run a large cow-calf operation of the breed known as Santa Gertrudis
- The Nunley brother’s grandfather, Red Nunley, started the operation over 70 years ago and partnered with a Texan named Dolph Briscoe Senior to breed his herd
7. Deseret Ranches
Deseret Ranches is one of the largest cattle ranches in the United State. The ranch is owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and located in Florida.
- The ranch covers about 295,000 acres of land, or the equivalent of 450 square miles, across the Brevard, Orange, and Osceola Counties
- The land has been made commercially productive for beef cattle, citrus, and timber
- Deseret’s landscape consists of pastures, citrus groves, wetlands, and woodlands
8. Independence Valley Farm and Ranch
Located in Northeast Nevada, the Independence Valley Farm and Ranch is currently operating as a farm and cattle ranch. However, the farm also engages in the development of oil, gold, and other geothermal opportunities.
- It includes more than 47,700 deeded acres with an adjacent grazing pasture of more than 100,000 acres
- There are 1,250 head of cattle grazing on the ranch
9. The IX Ranch
This enormous ranch comprised of more than 134,500 acres in Big Sandy, Montana, is valued at more than $66 million. It is truly in a class of its own.
This ranch has the flexibility of grass-fed meat production with enlightened, award-winning animal welfare protocol, and ethical practices. The IX Ranch is a legacy ranch passed down to family generations for more than 130 years. The current owners are only the second owners in history. It has earned and maintains a respected reputation in ranch country.
The ranch is a new type of ranch that:
- Has responsibly stewarded natural resource
- Conscientiously helps feed the world
- Is certified as an ecologically safe protector of land
The wildlife is abundant and diverse, with large populations of elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, antelope, mountain lion and five species of upland birds. It is also a scenic ranch with many habitat types from mountain country, with aspens and evergreens, to productive grass meadows between large and picturesque rolling hills. The ranch is also home to tens of thousands of miles of streams filled with trout, beaver ponds and reservoirs.
10. The Continental Divide Ranch
This large working ranch is located in south-central Wyoming, near the town of Rawlins.
- The ranch totals approximately 98,424 total acres and offers a wide range of eco-colonies including irrigated and productive hay meadows along the North River, to the Haystack Mountains, where there are acres of woodlands of pine and aspen
- There are around 5 miles of river frontage along the well-known North Platte River, providing excellent fishing
- The ranch provides habitat for many species of wildlife, including trophy mule deer, and elk, along with many south-central bird and game species
11. Walnut Creek & Lazy YU Ranches
The Walnut Creek & Lazy YU ranches are among the most beautiful in the world. About two-thirds of the land is actually quite hilly, located in the Hualapai Mountains. The rest of the land is flat in the Sacramento Valley.
- This ranch consists of 95,000 acres in Kingman, Arizona with grazing fields for 600 head of cattle
- The site also has a working vineyard. It is known as a desert to mountain ranch broken up into nearly 150 sections
- Its estimated value is $2.5 million
12. Howard Mesa Ranch
The Howard Mesa Ranch, located in Arizona, is primarily a cattle ranch. Of the total acreage, over half the land is adverse unfenced.
- At 58,561 acres in Williams, Arizona, this ranch’s land runs from level to a slow incline with a group of hills and small mountains along Cataract Canyon
- It is primarily a cattle ranch, with grazing fields that can hold 850 heads of cattle
- The ranch is well-watered by a pipeline, dirt tanks and seasonal water in Cataract Canyon
- The land includes several buildings including a main home, bunk house and many barns
Largest Ranches In The US: Final Thoughts
The key differentiator between farms and ranches is what they grow. Farms are generally dedicated to crops while ranches raise livestock.
The United States is home to some of the largest ranches in the world. Most of them are located in the midwest, specifically in Texas!
In the list above, we highlighted the 12 largest ranches in the US, but it's estimated as many as 700,000 ranches are in operation in the US.