Deep in South Texas lies a legendary 150 year old ranch, the history of which has been immortalized in films and books down through the years. In fact, this ranch is considered the birthplace of the American ranching industry and remains one of the largest working ranches in existence in modern times. We are talking about none other than the famous King Ranch near Kingsville, where the spirit and history of ranching are celebrated each year at the annual Ranch Hand Breakfast.
If you have never visited this magnificent ranch you are in for a real treat. And this real "cowboy breakfast" celebration is the perfect opportunity to check it out and experience the roots of western heritage.
The Annual Ranch Hand Breakfast takes place every year the Saturday before Thanksgiving this year falling on Nov. 19th from 7:00 am to 11:00 am. Yes, it's early....they're cowboys and work starts before dawn, so give 'em a break! But it will be the best breakfast you can get this side of the Rio Grande. For instance, where else can you find homemade gravy cooked by the pot fulls, thick ranch-style bacon, eggs. refried frijoles and hot tortillas, and spicy salsa. Hungry yet?
And to keep you entertained and informed there will be cowboy story-telling events, team roping demonstrations, exhibits from the King Ranch museum, and a chance to tour the ranch (seperate fee for ranch tour). The cost for all this glorious food and entertainment is just $5.00 for adults and children 3 and under are free.
In fact it's not only a good day to enjoy the ranch but the town of Kingsville as well, running concurrently with the Ranch Hand Breakfast is the South Texas Wildlife and Birding Festival. Also, Nov. 18th is the kickoff for the community's Christmas season including Breakfast with Santa, musical performances, pagents, decorated Christmas Tree Forest and much more. For more detailed information on the events of the day go to the Kingsville Convention and Visitors Bureau.
However, the best place to start is definitely The Ranch Hand Breakfast which obviously takes place on the King Ranch, Taking a tour of the ranch is a must.
Though the ranch is still among the largest in the world with over 60,000 head of cattle and 300 quarter horses, it is a much smaller operation than in it's earlierdays. Many changes in agriculture and economy over the last 150 years has kept the ranch on its toes reinventing itself from time to time, just to keep it among the best working ranches in the world, though - though never far from it's ranching roots.
The ranch was founded by Captain Richard King ( a former steamboat pilot turned rancher) in the middle of the 19th century when he and his partner Gideon "Legs" Lewis purchased the 15,500-acre Mexican land grant then known as the Rincon de Santa Gertrudis – the first foothold of what would become the legendary King Ranch of Texas.
King built an empire with the help of the area's hard working, resilient people, who were already good stockmen and expert horsemen. Many of those working on the ranch today are direct descendants of the" Los Kineños" (spanish for Kings' people).
Captain King was a visionary and throughout his lifemany accomplishments in agriculture can be attributed to his dreams and ambitions. One of his greatest accomplishments may have been his upbreeding program that began with the inception of the ranch to turn puny longhorns and wild horses into quality stock. The upshot of one such program in the years after King's death would be the development of the Santa Gertrudis breed of cattle – the first officially recognized new breed of beef cattle in America. Other upbreeding programs led to the development of the country's top quarter horses and some of America's most notable thoroughbreds – including 1946 Triple Crown winner ASSAULT. These breeding programs continue at the ranch today.
When most people think of ranching they think of cattle and horses. But successful ranching involves much more. A ranch the size of the King must grow the finest grasses available to feed its stock, crops to feed its staff, and in recent years the King has gone into commercial agriculture production.
In addition to King Ranch's significant South Texas operations, the ranch operation has extensive operations in Florida. Many people don't know it, but the King Ranch (through its presence in Florida) is the largest juice orange producer in the United States.
The King Ranch has also been involved in the publishing business since 1906 and publishes the Kingsville Record and Bishop News, as well as several other community newspapers and specialty publications. Eco-tourism and game hunting are also areas the Ranch has branched out into over the years to keep the ranch a viable and healthy operation.
It's a fascinating place and you have a great opportunity to visit and enjoy it anytime of the year. But why not go when the real cowboys will cook you breakfast? Don't miss it Nov. 19th,The Ranch Hand Breakast on the King Ranch. See you there.