Spanish Ranching in Texas
Picture drawn by J.N. Finch
There was an effort to introduce livestock to Texas as early as 1690 , but only after the Canary Islanders settled in Texas did cattle raising become a major endeavor. About 1760, ranches were established along the San Antonio River and the Rio Grande River for the purpose of raising ganados mayores (large stock: cattle, horses, donkeys, and mules) and ganados menores (small stock: sheep and goats).
Ranches were usually given descriptive nicknames, such as Rancho de las Mulas (Ranch of the Mules), Rancho del las Hermanas (Ranch of the Sisters), and Rancho de Palo Quemado (Ranch of the Burned Stake). The mission Indians took on the jobs of the vaquero for the mission ranches. The mission ranches kept herds of cattle, sheep, goats, oxen, horses, and mules. The herds served as one of the bases for the economy.
Besides establishing large ranches, the Spanish also introduced many western traditions. It was the Spanish "vaquero" who came with the riding equipment that later was modified for use by the American cowboy. It was the vaquero who initiated the practice of the roundup and branding for indentification of one's livestock. Since there was a market for the cattle in other locations, it was natural that the trail drive should develop. There is evidence of a drive from Bexar to Coahuila as early as 1770, but the first official authorized drive occurred in 1779.
The tools of ranching included "la reata" (rope or lasso), a branding iron, a saddle, "las chaparreras" (chaps), and "el sombrero" (large brimmed hat).