J. D. Hudgins Ranch

By: Ray Spitzenberger

Type: General Entry

Published: October 1, 1995

Updated: April 5, 2020

The J. D. Hudgins Ranch was established in 1882 by Rachel Ann Northington McKenzie Hudgins and her four sons in Wharton County with main operations in Hungerford, fifty miles southwest of Houston on U.S. Highway 59, and six miles northeast of Wharton, Texas. The ranch is recognized by the Family Land Heritage as a 100-year-old family-run ranch, and it is acknowledged by the American Brahman Breeders Association as having the largest number of registered Gray Brahman cattle in the world. The J. D. Hudgins Ranch has never hired outside management and is one of the few United States ranches of its sales volume to be totally family run. After the death of Joel Hudgins in 1873, Rachel asked their son Josiah Dawson (J. D.) to take over the family interests. The family began purchasing land in Wharton County; acquiring over 10,000 acres, in addition to their other holdings. In 1897 the four brothers divided the property between themselves and operated independently. In 1908 J. D. and his wife Mollie (McKinney), formed a partnership with their four children, to be known as the J. D. Hudgins Ranch. J. D. took over ranch management and was in charge until his death in 1928, when his son, Walter J. Hudgins, directed ranch operations until his death in 1943. His son, Edgar H. Hudgins, supervised it until 1962, at which time the ranch was divided into five divisions, representing the family groups of the grandchildren of J. D. Hudgins. The ranch was still operating in 1985 under the Hudgins, Mangum, Locke, Forgason, and Koonce divisions.

Originally the ranch maintained herds of slick-haired Louisiana cattle with a small amount of Brahman blood in them. In 1915 Hudgins purchased the ranch's first purebred Brahman cows from A. P. Borden; these animals were descendants of the herd brought from India by Borden in 1906. In 1933 the Hudgins Ranch purchased the gray Brahman bull Manso, a descendant of a pureblood Brazilian Brahma bred by the Sartwelle Brothers of Palacios, Texas. Manso sired 316 offspring in ten years, and today 65 percent of all the Brahman cattle registered by the American Brahman Breeders Association can trace their lineage directly back to this gentle, very beefy bull. Before Manso, Brahman cattle generally were wild, thin, and leggy. The half-circle "L" brand on the right hip of each animal is the registered J. D. Hudgins Ranch firebrand. Formerly the brand was used by J. D. Hudgins's nephew; it was chosen and bought by Hudgins because it was almost impossible for rustlers to alter. In addition to the ranch brand, each division has its own firebrand on the right forearm of each animal. In the late twentieth century the J. D. Hudgins Ranch shipped purebreds to forty-two different countries and thirty-four states in the United States. In some years up to 85 percent of all their cattle sales were shipped to foreign countries. The ranch began international sales in 1932. The National Cattleman's Association recognized J. D. Hudgins Ranch as being among the ten largest purebred (all breeds) cattle producers in the United States. The Hudgins Ranch, an original backer of the Houston Fat Stock Show, won the champion Brahman cow award at the first show in 1932 and at the fiftieth anniversary show in 1982. The cattle continued to capture awards, and by 1990 had won over 1,500 championships in exhibition rings in the U.S. and in foreign countries.

The ranch was featured in Edgar H. Hudgins's book, Hudgins: Virginia to Texas, a first-place winner in the 1983 Texas Historical Commission Publication Contest. It is frequently featured in magazines like Texas Highways. The family office building, from which the operations of the ranch are currently directed, stands at the crossroads of State Highway 60 and Old U.S. Highway 59, directly across from an official Texas historical marker commemorating the ranch.

Edgar H. Hudgins, Hudgins: Virginia to Texas (Houston: Larksdale, 1983). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (J. D. Hudgins).

  • Ranching and Cowboys
  • Ranches Established After 1835

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Ray Spitzenberger, “J. D. Hudgins Ranch,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 24, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/j-d-hudgins-ranch.

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October 1, 1995
April 5, 2020