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Ranching in Spanish Texas

Livestock, including cattle, horses, mules, sheep, and goats, was brought to Texas by the early settlers. The Franciscans in Texas were the primary caregivers of the livestock. They were successful in the San Antonio area, but the settlements in East Texas were not. Each mission had its own ranch, and the missions received land grants from the king of Spain to conduct their activities. After 1750, ranchers began to settle their own small ranches in the river valley, prompting lawsuits against the missions, which claimed ownership of the best pastureland. The missionaries fought back by accusing the private ranchers of stealing their cattle.

Teodoro de Croix visited Bexar in January 1778. He tried to bring order to the livestock industry by saying that all wild and unbranded livestock belonged to the king. He also set a tax on both cattle and horses rounded up and branded by the people. This tax became the Mustang Fund. The private cattlemen and missionaries came together to fight a long legal battle against Croix’s cattle law. Through many people’s efforts, the ranchers of Texas succeeded in getting some branding extensions to collect their stray cattle.

In 1787, there was a cattle roundup in which 7,000 cattle were caught and branded. The only mission that could participate was La Bahia. This proves that the missions were losing their power and the private cattlemen were dominating the Texas stock raising. In 1795, the ranchers were told that they would not have to pay their debts to the Mustang Fund and they had a year to gather, brand, and dispose of wild cattle tax-free. This increased the number of herds shipped to Coahuila and Louisiana and led to the slaughter of many cattle for tallow (fat), hides (skin) and dried beef. As a result, the number of cattle decreased. Although they tried to rebuild the Texas cattle industry, they were disrupted by the Mexican War of Independence. Many parts of Spanish ranching, such as dress, equipment, saddle styles, roping methods, and terminology influenced the Anglo-American stock raisers.


Source: Ranching in Spanish Texas
Copyright © Texas State Historical Association

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