ranch, large farm devoted chiefly to raising and breeding cattle, horses, sheep, and goats. The cattle ranch was introduced from Latin America to Texas and the plains of the W United States and Canada. The first ranchers owned cattle, ponies, and camp equipment but no land, grazing their stock on the free public range. When the fencing of land became compulsory, most ranges were broken up into smaller ranches. Cattle and sheep are often shipped from ranches to feed lots in the corn belt for fattening. The term ranch is applied in the W United States also to grain and fruit farms. The dude ranch offers horseback riding and other typically Western outdoor activities for the entertainment of paying guests. Some dude ranches are also "working" ranches, but most are devoted solely to vacationers.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.