Texas Rangers, mounted fighting force organized (1835) during the Texas Revolution. During the republic they became established as the guardians of the Texas frontier, particularly against Native Americans. The Texas Rangers at first consisted of three companies of 25 men each. Said to "ride like Mexicans, shoot like Tennesseans, and fight like the very devil," the rangers were unique as a police force in that they never drilled, were not required to salute officers, and wore neither uniforms nor any standard gear except the six-shooter. In their first decade of operation, the rangers effectively quelled lawlessness in Texas on frequent occasions, and in the Mexican War (1846–48) they served as scouts and guerrilla fighters, gaining a wide reputation for valor and effectiveness.
In the late 1850s the rangers fought vicious battles with the Comanche, and in the Civil War, Terry's Texas Rangers gained renown. In the Reconstruction era the Texas Rangers were engaged to control outlaws, feuding groups, and Mexican marauders and were responsible for keeping law and order along the Rio Grande. In 1874 the Texas Rangers were organized for the first time on a permanent basis in two battalions; one was assigned to arbitrate range wars on the frontier, and the other was sent to control cattle rustling on the Texas-Mexico border. The heyday of the great cattle business, with its feuds and shootings, its outlaws and rustlers, was also the heyday of the Texas Rangers.
In the 20th cent. the police responsibilities of the rangers, around whom much lore had built up, decreased, and by 1935 their numbers had diminished considerably. By act (1935) of the Texas legislature, the rangers were merged with the state highway patrol under the jurisdiction of the state department of public safety. The rangers now form an elite investigative squad within the Texas highway patrol. The first women rangers were admitted to the force in 1993.
See W. P. Webb, The Texas Rangers (2d ed. 1965), C. M. Robinson, The Men Who Wear the Star (2000).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.