The legendary King Ranch is holding its first cattle and horse sale since 1988 to help celebrate its sesquicentennial.
A unique bull fetched $45,000, and a 15-year-old mare that had never been bred sold for $41,000, bringing the auction's grand total to $838,000. Of that amount, $179,000 will go to the new King Ranch Institute of Ranch Management at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, a Blanco rancher whose family has held a hunting lease on the King Ranch since the 1930s, spent $20,000 apiece for a horse and saddle.
"My wife likes horses," he said with a smile.
"It wasn't just generosity," Holt added. "We're glad to do it, but we very much are in the horse business."
[Captain Richard] King founded the ranch in 1853 when it was part of the Wild Horse Desert. From a few thousand acres, it has grown to 825,000 acres. Houston-based King Ranch Inc. also has extensive land holdings in Florida, but its renown continues to come from its South Texas horse and cattle operations.
Tio Kleberg of Kingsville, the last family member to have lived on and run the ranch, said the anniversary events allowed the owners to show gratitude to the community and the ranch's patrons for generations of collaboration.
"There's a lot of nostalgia here. It brings back a lot of people that we haven't seen for years, and it's really nice to have them back and to share this tradition with us," Kleberg said.
Ranch general manager Paul Genho said the horse and cattle sale, one year in the making, enabled the ranch to share some of its finest products with the public. Bidders came from throughout Texas, the United States and Mexico.
"King Ranch has always been progressive, but the last five to 10 years we've focused a lot on making our product meet consumers' needs," he said.
"We just sold a bull that carries all the desirable (steak) genes -- every one of them -- for $45,000. I think it was about half of what it's worth," he said, explaining that the Santa Gertrudis bull named Ricardo was unique.
"It's the only bull in the breed with all those genes, and there's been a lot of bulls tested," Genho said. It was purchased by a consortium of 11 breeders in Texas, Alabama and Arkansas.
"They're going to collect the semen and spread it around," Genho said.
While the animal sales were for the ranch's benefit, auctions of the saddle, hunting trips and other items were devoted to the institute, which has an endowment goal of $10 million.
In the coming months, an endowed chair will be filled and eventually students will learn how to manage large ranches by taking business, agriculture and other related courses.
"We've raised $7.5 million," Genho said proudly. Most of the funds came from the ranch's stockholders.