Without a doubt, the most famous western gunfight of all time took place at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. In fact, many claim that if not for Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Johnny Ringo, and other notorious gunslingers, Arizona would have remained a backwater in the consciousness of America for quite some time. What attracted many of these pistol-packing cowboys to the state was money generated from the very lucrative ranching and cattle business. While most of these gunfighters did not work the ranches themselves, they lived in “cowboy” towns where riding horseback was a way of life.
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Even today, when many people think of Arizona, they first think of steely-eyed gunfighters, rough and tumble cowboys, and the ranches they worked on. If there is a little bit of Wyatt Earp in you and you are looking for a place to ride your horse and run free, there is no better place than Arizona. Read More...
Even if leather chaps and a Winchester rifle aren’t your idea of a nice day on horseback, the state offers all kinds of equestrian options. If instead of chasing down a wayward longhorn, you’d rather be sitting atop a thoroughbred or riding to the hounds, then Arizona has something for you too.
A few folks look at Arizona horse property as hospitality venues where they can charge city slickers a hefty fee to play cowboy for a few days. Dude ranches can be real money makers if done right. After all, there’s a little bit of cowboy in almost every adult American male. This is not surprising given the heavy diet of Westerns – The Unforgiven, True Grit, Dances with Wolves, etc. – most boys were raised on in this country.
No matter what type of horse property you may be interested in, Arizona has lots of them. We’ll look at a few, but first here’s a bit of history, how exactly Arizona became the mecca of ranching (sorry, Texas).
The first ranches to appear in Arizona were thanks to Spanish Jesuit missionaries who came north from their colony in Mexico to baptize and “Europeanize” Native-Americans. According to historians, Father Kino from Spain brought a herd of 700 cattle to Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson in 1591. Not surprising, the cattle thrived. And with cattle came horses.
By 1890, the cattle industry was a mainstay in Arizona with almost 1 million head of cattle roaming the state, according to federal government statistics. Today, ranching remains an important economic driver, but it is nothing like it was years ago. In fact, the number of cattle in the state has shrunk by half over the last few decades. And ranches have evolved from strictly cattle and horse ranches.
The word “dude” meant something very different a hundred years ago than it does today. It was a less than complimentary term for people from the East – city slickers – who visited the Wild West. These “dudes” were, in the eyes of cowboys, ostentatious and ignorant of the ways of the West. That’s how the term “dude ranch” came about as a place to entertain these deep-pocketed urbanites and relieve them of as much money as possible by putting them atop a horse.
Things are more friendly today. Anyone who wants to can experience a cowboy vacation at a dude ranch where they can spend a few days or weeks, riding among the cactus, herding cattle and enjoying the ways of the West.
For the want-a-be John Wayne’s, there are over 100 dude ranches to choose from, according to the Dude Ranch Association. A typical night will run you about $400. For that you have access to chuck wagon vittles – chili beans, beef, and all sorts of cowboy cuisine – as well as plenty of horseback rides with guides to take you on miles of wilderness trails.
While this may be too much work for the person who wants a horse property as a second home, it could be an option for those who like the hospitality business and want to combine it with a passion for horses.
If cow-towing to a bunch of East Coast city slickers isn’t your idea of ranching, there are many others available in Arizona. In fact, there are lots of horse properties for sale in Arizona.
You’ll be happy to know that the culture of cowboys, ranch hands, cattle herds and rodeos are alive and well in Arizona. While not quite what it was decades ago when cattle ranches and Arizona practically went together, today there are still around 900,000 head of cattle in the state.
In fact, according to one government estimate, 21% of all so-called “farms”, which include cattle ranches, produce beef products.
You can even show off your riding skills at the Arizona Quarter Horse Show.
This type of equestrian activity usually conjures up red coated riders, bugle in hand, chasing down a terrified fox who has a pack of yelping hounds right on his tail. While it seems more at home in the lush English countryside than it does on the arid landscape of Arizona, these equestrian businesses exist in Arizona too. Summertime Farms in Tucson is one of them. Here you can learn to jump over hedges like a fine old English aristocrat, Trot like they do in front of Buckingham Place, and all the other refined riding techniques of English riding.
Each year, at WestWorld in Scottsdale, the Arabian Horse Show draws enthusiasts from far and wide. You can enjoy the show, learn more about care and breeding of Arabian horses, and find equestrian accessories of all kind.
While there aren’t many of these types of ranches in Arizona, there are some. So if you want to own a ranch of this type, Arizona has them.
You can buy a small ranch, for cattle, horses, sheep, or city slickers for around $50,000. This is a bare bones “ranch” with five acres, lots of dust, a sprinkling of cactus, and no doubt a few prairie dogs. This ranch is awaiting construction of a ranch house, fences, and all the other stuff that goes into ranches so, for a small amount you’re basically getting an empty desert patch with lots of potential, and that’s about it.
If you have big bucks, there’s a 135-acre ranch for sale in sunny Cave Creek in the million dollar price range . This ranch comes with everything - barns, fences, magnificent ranch house, etc. This might be the place for you.
A good example of the cost of a turn-key horse ranch is one for sale in Pima County. It’s 4.13 acres, has a small 3-bedroom ranch house, a barn with 8 horse stalls, a pen and fencing.
There is a ranch for sale for every budget and every style in Arizona.
Any good cowboy knows that they need a good trail to follow, and often that trail can only be found with the help of a seasoned guide. The same is true when it comes to buying an equestrian cattle, horse, or dude ranch. You need to be accompanied with a real estate “Kit Carson”, if you will. A professional broker who knows the lay of the land and can help you navigate the process.
The folks at Arizona Network Realty are professional real estate brokers who can help you with the complicated issues when it comes to buying a ranch or horse property. Think of them as your own personal Kit Carson of real estate. You won’t lose your way and you’ll find just what you are looking for.
Last updated - February 15, 2023
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