Photo: Rankin Ranch
In 1854, Walker Rankin left his home in Pittsburgh, Pa., for the gold fields of California. He became an established cattle rancher and farmer by his early 30s after purchasing 640 acres in the Walker Basin of Kern County in 1863. He and his wife, Lavinia, had seven children, and for the past century-and-a-half, the family has carried on the cattle ranching tradition. Today, fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-generation Rankins run the ranch, which has expanded to 31,000 acres.
“The Quarter Circle U brand was first used by my great-great-grandfather, Walker Rankin Sr., and our family has continued to use that brand for 153 years now,” says Amanda Rankin. No one in the family knows why the brand was chosen, but the Quarter Circle U is one of the earliest registered brands in the state of California. The family burns the iron on the left hip of all their livestock.
An innovator from the beginning, Walker is credited with importing the first purebred Hereford cattle to the area, and Rankin Ranch continues to raise the breed today. The ranch runs cow-calf and yearling operations, but doubles as a popular guest ranch. This business was added on in 1965 by Helen Rankin to improve cash flow and more fully utilize the land.
Today, Rankin Ranch is recognized as one of the oldest and largest family-owned ranches in the West. Bill Rankin, Amanda’s father, once said, “The people who established this ranch, and those who took chances to start other ranches and businesses, they were the ones who built California.”
Though strongly tied to their roots and the pioneers of California ranching through their cattle operations, the Rankins are blazing new trails for ranch profitability through the hospitality industry. Regardless of the enterprise, it’s all tied together under the Quarter Circle U brand that continues to represent the Western lifestyle.