Start My Family Tree Welcome to Geni, home of the world's largest family tree.
Join Geni to explore your genealogy and family history in the World's Largest Family Tree.
view all


  • Heinrich John Hemme (1865 - 1924)
  • Samuel Ealy Johnson, Sr (CSA) (1838 - 1915)
    Samuel Ealy Johnson Sr . (November 12, 1838 – February 25, 1915) was an American businessman, politician, cattleman, and Confederate soldier. He was the paternal grandfather of future US President Lynd...
  • Robert Lee Duke (1874 - 1933)
    Robert L. Duke was the foreman of the Buffalo Springs division of the XIT Ranch in Texas. The story goes that after returning with her charges from a late roundup near El Frio Springs, Cordia Sloan was...
  • Cordelia Duke (1877 - 1966)
    Cordelia (Cordia) Duke, rancher, writer, and game warden, was born near Belton, Missouri, on January 10, 1877, the daughter of A. R. C. and Belle (Wingert) Sloan. She attended school in Overbrook, Kans...


A ranch (from Spanish: rancho) is an area of land, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle and sheep. It is a subtype of a farm. These terms are most often applied to livestock-raising operations in Mexico, the Western United States and Western Canada, though there are ranches in other areas.[1] People who own or operate a ranch are called ranchers, cattlemen, or stockgrowers. Ranching is also a method used to raise less common livestock such as horses, elk, American bison or even ostrich, emu, and alpaca.[2]

A rancher is the supervisor of operations, and therefore decides which animals to raise, when to rotate stock, and makes decisions about breeding. They sometimes use artificial insemination to introduce new bloodlines, or sell semen from their own herd so other ranchers can access the ranch bloodlines.


Following negotiations of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, American settlers began migrating westward. The acquisition from France, which President Jefferson would later say “stretched the Constitution until it cracked,” incorporated some 828,000 square miles of new territory, which boasted auspicious potential for those willing to brave the unknown.

Over the subsequent century, pioneers began pushing west in earnest, encouraged by reports from early expeditioners, who described vast and fertile lands beyond the Mississippi River. Many early settlers were met by impressive free-roaming herds of cattle and bison, particularly throughout Texas and Oklahoma, that had been domesticated, to varying degrees, by Native Americans and Mexican vaqueros.

The cattle, settlers soon realized, proved an unexpectedly lucrative business specimen. Texas cowboys – as they would come to be called when ranchers began large cattle drives that often spanned hundreds of miles – started rounding up herds, breeding them and flooding East Coast markets with a steady supply of beef. The burgeoning trade created a stable industry in a frontier rife with booms and busts.

Ranches in those early days were loosely defined. Built around affordable homestead plots issued by the government, pastures were often shared and cattle herds comingled to maximize the productivity of the land. That communality put a high importance on brands—and brand inspectors, range lawmen of sorts that enforced ownership and sought to stop rustlers. Regularly, cattlemen grazed stock on public lands, a practice that continues today, albeit under more formal federal and state regulation.

With only rudimentary cultivation practices and virtually no modern technologies, early cattle ranching generally required sizeable tracts of land to support even a modest herd. In the Rocky Mountain West, long winters required ranchers to manage both summer pastures and fields for raising hay to feed during the long winters. Many operations employed ranch hands, or “cow pokes,” responsible for moving cattle throughout the year, which involved the unenviable task of warding off predators.

Unwittingly, that style of ranching created a sustainability model that experts today herald as a solution to greenhouse emissions. By frequently moving herds, only briefly feeding on each spot, the cattle would not overrun the land. At the same time, their movement turned up the soil, allowing it to absorb more rain and minerals, and their manure naturally fertilized the ground.

Ranchers have long considered themselves stewards of the land. Like no other business, they rely on the health and productivity of the dirt under their feet to survive. Now, on the shoulder of innovative new practices and technologies, cattle ranching is gradually transitioning from an object of blame to a serious solution to climate change.