The XIT Ranch encompassed more than three million acres across ten counties on the Llano Estacado in western Texas. Considered the largest cattle ranch in the world, the XIT also leased land in the Dakotas and in Montana. The XIT stretched for more than 200 miles in the Texas Panhandle and had 575 miles of outside fence. The first 22,000 cattle arrived from Fort Concho in 1885 and the number maintained on the XIT eventually grew to 150,000. The ranch, which employed as many as 100 cowboys, was organized into seven divisions with a headquarters at Channing. The brand XIT was the idea of Ab Blocker, a trail driver who persuaded management that any good brand should be easy to make with a simple iron, but also be difficult to brand over by rustlers.
The land the XIT was established on was sold by the state of Texas to the Chicago-based Capitol Syndicate Company in 1882. This became the Capitol Freehold Land and Investment Company, Ltd., in 1885, which included investors from the United States and Britain. The Syndicate Company received title to the land in exchange for constructing a new capitol building in Austin. The Capitol building, completed in 1888, ultimately cost $3,224,593.45, which meant the Syndicate Company paid $1.07 per acre for the land that would become the XIT. Because of the high price of land and the declining prices of cattle, the XIT was dismantled in the early twentieth century. The last XIT cattle, 13,560 head, were sold in November 1912, and the vast ranch was sold in large parcels to other ranchers and in small acreages to farmers from 1901 to the 1950s.
Kenneth C. Dagel Missouri Western State College
Haley, J. Evetts. The XIT Ranch of Texas and the Early Days of the Llano Estacado. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953.
Nordyke, Lewis. Cattle Empire: The Fabulous Story of the 3,000,000 acre XIT. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1949.