Until Los Mesteños was published in 1986, the history of cattle ranching in Texas focused almost exclusively on the nineteenth-century era of the great cattle drives. But even before the birth of George III or George Washington, the king’s men—subjects of the Spanish crown—had established a vast cattle kingdom in Texas.
Jack Jackson chronicles in rich detail the hundred years of Spanish ranching, beginning a century before Mexico, and subsequently Texas, gained independence. From the introduction of livestock into the province by various early entradas (expeditions), to the first big roundup in 1787, and beyond, he traces the development of the range and of cattle working. He shows the feral increase of the early herds, the conflicts over ownership of the wild animals (mesteños), the emergence of Spanish “dynasties,” and the attempts of colonial governments to regulate the industry.
Although some scholars have attributed western ranching practices largely to the influence of Anglo settlers, Jackson meticulously traces both stock and stock raising techniques to their origins in Spanish Texas. Describing the founding of the first Anglo ranches in Texas, he carefully shows their adaptation of Hispanic cattle culture in the brands used, the market exploited, and the emerging life-style.