By Nicholas Neppach
Charles Goodnight and his partner John Adair formed the JA Ranch in 1877, which covered 1.3 million acres and supported over 100,000 cattle. Their partnership ended in 1888 and Goodnight moved to what would later be called Goodnight, Texas. While still a partner of the JA Ranch in the spring of 1878, the buffalo were slowly dying off and only scattered bunches remained.
Mrs. Goodnight suggested to her husband they try and preserve these buffalo. So Goodnight rounded up a group of buffalo. This was the start of the Goodnight herd, which would end up being of great commercial value to Charles Goodnight. It also preserved this animal and would end up making the Goodnight Ranch famous all over the world.
With the preservation of the buffalo in progress, Goodnight began his own functioning buffalo ranch. American Bison stand some 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) tall at the shoulder, and can tip the scales at over a ton (907 kilograms). Despite their massive size, bison are quick on their feet. When the need arises, they can run at speeds up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour. They sport curved, sharp horns that may grow to be two feet (61 centimeters) long. Goodnight sold these buffalo around the world and sold them butchered for $350.00 a piece and also sold their hides, which went on average for about $100.00 a piece.
Goodnight became known as the “Burbank of the Range” by historian J. Evetts Haley. He named him this after the famous plant breeder Luther Burbank. He was named this because he pioneered breeding programs for cattle and worked until his death to produce a cross breed between beef cattle and buffalo. Eventually an Angus/Buffalo cross was made along with a Hereford/Buffalo cross.
Mr. Goodnight played a huge role in the preserving of buffalo in the state of Texas and in our country. Today the genetically pure descendants of Charles Goodnight’s original buffalo herd or the “Texas State Buffalo Herd” are managed by Texas Parks and Wildlife at a facility located in Quitaque, Texas.