Land and Cattle

The Setting the Texas Table exhibit logo showing a plate with a fork, knife and spoon on top of a red outline of Texas

Perhaps no food product is more closely tied to Texas than beef. From ranch to cowboy, brand to barbecue, these icons of the Texas cattle industry serve as touchstones of our history and identity.

Spaniards originally brought cattle into South Texas and let them roam freely; they kept track of their own cattle with ownership brands. When Anglos arrived, they began adopting many of the techniques used by the Spanish and built family ranches, some operated by the same families for generations, including ranchers today.

The demand for meat during the Civil War prompted a dramatic increase in production, and by 1866 Texas cattle drives were on the rise. The process of moving cattle through long journeys to markets would continue until the late 1800s when the railroad and the advent of barbed wire (which fenced off land and promoted large ownership) completed the transformation of cattle raising to an internationally-renowned industry with mass distribution. Ranching continues to be the largest agriculture industry in Texas, which leads the country in cattle production.

Exhibit Video

A woman in a cowboy hat and chaps riding a Texas longhorn in a parade. Link to a video in the Texas Digital Archive - Festival Time in Texas  - Texas Department of Transportation Records 2013/063-015

"Festival Time in Texas" - Texas Department of Transportation records.
2013/063-015. Click or tap on image to view video on our Texas Digital Archive.

Exhibit Items

A photographof a the frayed brown cover with the title written on front in cursive hand writing. Agriculture Bureau letterpress book, January 19-April 29, 1895Agriculture Bureau letterpress book, January 19-April 29, 1895.

Agriculture and livestock have been a mainstay of Texas life since early in the state’s history. This letterpress book is from a predecessor agency to the Texas Department of Agriculture. When the Texas Department of Agriculture was established in 1907, it had a staff of four, including the commissioner.

 

 

 

 

A photograph of hogs wandering in a field and some in a pen. Hogs on the Stanton Allen Farm, Rio Grande Valley, December 1, 1917. Stugard collection, Image 1963/185-53Hogs on the Stanton Allen Farm, Rio Grande Valley, December 1, 1917. Stugard collection, Image 1963/185-53.

While many think of cattle when they think Texas livestock the state has also long promoted in-state pork production. Today’s practices have changed from what is seen here in this photograph, with advances in animal genetics, technology and management practices. Click or tap on thumbnail for larger image.




 

The cover of the brochure showing a photograph of a windmill and a ranch house. The Panhandle County for Beef Cattle and Dairy Farming, 1915. Rock Island Lines Travel brochure, Manuscript collection, Box 2-23/1062The Panhandle Country for Beef Cattle and Dairy Farming, 1915. Rock Island Lines Travel brochure, Manuscript collection, Box 2-23/1062.

Texas is one of the country’s top 10 dairy states and is the largest milk-producing state in the south.

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A newspaper clipping of the article. “Texas Cattle Industry Knows Boom Times Again,” by Jack B. Krueger, about 1937. Subject files, Clippings, Texas Planning Board records, Box 017-28“Texas Cattle Industry Knows Boom Times Again,” by Jack B. Krueger, about 1937. Subject files, Clippings, Texas Planning Board records, Box 017-28.

The “Texas cattle empire” – as mentioned in this article – helped mold the state’s identity. To this day, Texas remains the national leader in cattle production, in both quantity and selection.

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A photograph of cows looking through a barbed wire fence. East Texas cattle herds, cross breeds and mixed herds, August 1975. Texas Department of Agriculture photograph collection, Box 2001/078-40, Image 75-056A-5a (digital facsimile)East Texas cattle herds, cross breeds and mixed herds, August 1975. Texas Department of Agriculture photograph collection, Box 2001/078-40, Image 75-056A-5a (digital facsimile).

The historic ranching legacy of Texas – cowboys, cattle, horses and more – is owed to the Texas livestock producers, whose dedication and expertise are documented in records from the Texas Department of Agriculture.

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The press release with brown text on yellow paper. Texas Family Land Heritage press release, 1987. Texas Department of Agriculture records, Box 2011/226Texas Family Land Heritage press release, 1987. Texas Department of Agriculture records, Box 2011/226.

Sponsored by the Texas Department of Agriculture, the Family Land Heritage Program recognized families with farms or ranches in continuous agricultural production for at least 100 years – a true testament to the fortitude of Texans.

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A photograph of three different branding irons. Branding irons, 1870-1930. Artifacts collection, ATF0130Branding irons, 1870-1930. Artifacts collection, ATF0130.

Branding irons like this H-shaped example were used to prove ownership of livestock. While methods used today have advanced beyond the traditional branding iron, the idea remains the same.

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A poster showing illustrations of different types of livestock with the Go Texan logo in the center. Go Texan Texas Livestock poster, 2002. Texas Department of Agriculture records, Box 2011/226Go Texan Texas Livestock poster, 2002. Texas Department of Agriculture records, Box 2011/226.

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A poster showing the state of Texas with dots in each county representing the number of cattle. Texas Cattle and Calves, 1935. Maps, charts and notes, Texas Planning Board records, Map 6905Texas Cattle and Calves, 1935. Maps, charts and notes, Texas Planning Board records, Map 6905.

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 Next - Celebrating the Taste of Texas ->

Setting the Texas Table Exhibit Pages:

Setting the Texas Table | Cooking Up Texas | The Lean Table | Farm to Market |
Great Eats! Making It Official | Land And Cattle | Celebrating the Taste of Texas |

 

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Page last modified: November 15, 2019