A Texas-sized slice of ranching history
By Natalia Kome, United Country Real Estate
Legendary Quarter Horses and superior Angus cattle; Texas-sized legends and lands; a family straight from the history books—all these make up the Four Sixes Ranch.
For more than 150 years, the Four Sixes Ranch has survived by focusing on preservation and stewardship of its sprawling west Texas geography.
The land of the ranch is a mix of iconic desert scenery, rivers, and lakes as well as grassy pastures and forests. The terrain is perfect for livestock to thrive and is stunning to behold.
And, yes, you may have have seen it in the popular Yellowstone television show or its more-recent prequel, 1883.
Buy the brand, buy the land
A 19-year-old Samuel “Burk” Burnett rode to Denton County, Texas in 1868 with his savings in his pocket to purchase 100 head of cattle. Although young, he had been learning cattle ranching from his father for nearly 10 years by now. Each of the 100 cattle had a brand on them displaying ‘6666.’
Now, more than 150 years later, the Four Sixes Ranch is one of the most expansive, historic, and beloved ranches in the U.S. The spectacular main house of the Four Sixes Ranch is located near Guthrie, Texas and spans more than 266,000 acres of West Texas land.
Several stories abound about the ranch name. One is that Burnett won the ranch in game of poker with four sixes. This, unfortunately, is a Wild West fable. Burnett named his celebrated ranch after the brand that was on his first 100 cattle.
But this made him a rancher, and eventually, the Big Boss, in this part of Texas.
Legendary Wild West figures
Burnett married well—his first wife Ruth was a banker’s daughter—and he himself was on the boards of several Texas banks. But late in the 19th Century, a significant encounter resulted in friendship surpassing business.
With the expansion of his Four Sixes cattle herd, Burnett had moved cattle to Wichita Falls. Working through the government, he successfully negotiated leasing 300,000 grassland acres from the Comanche people. Negotiations put Burnett face-to-face with Chief Quanah Parker, a national figure at that time.
Despite tensions still being present between these two groups of people, Chief Quanah Parker and Burk Burnett became very close friends. He displayed respect and admiration for the Comanche people, and in return they gave him the affectionate nickname “Big Boss” or “MAS-SA-SUTA”.
When the government told Burnett he would have to vacate the land he had been on for years, he received some assistance from a friend: President Theodore Roosevelt. The President allowed Burnett a few years to transfer his cattle to another ranch he recently purchased, and this started land acquisition for the Four Sixes Ranch.
Thanking Roosevelt and Quanah Parker for their assistance, he invited the two of them and his son, Thomas, to go on an unusual bare-handed hunt for wolves, coyotes and other game.
Texas Tea and Quarter Horses
While Burnett never lost his cowboy nature, his activities found him transitioning more to business aspects—banking. But, with so many acres under his control, it isn’t surprising that oil was found in 1921.This changed the trajectory of his empire and granted Burnett an impressive fortune.
During this time his son, Thomas Burnett, took over and that was when the Four Sixes brand began to earn additional fame with its Quarter Horses.
Tom Burnett already built a reputation of being an exceptional rancher from his years of managing his father’s land—and when Burk Burnett died in 1922, Tom’s activities became a vital piece of the Four Sixes story.
In 1932, Tom Burnett and ranch manager George Humphreys began replacing the ranch’s many older, worn-out stock horses. Humphreys, though, had the knowledge and the ambition to breed the best horses the nation had ever seen.
Four Sixes Quarter Horses were bred to have “cow sense,” speed, gentleness, and good looks. Hollywood Gold and Cee Bars were two studs that sired numerous prize winners and created a line of extraordinary horses.
The true gem of the Four Sixes Ranch was Dash For Cash. Known as one of the greatest sires in American Quarter Horse racing history, his sires would go on to win 16 world championships with accumulated earnings of more than $37 million.
Dash For Cash was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum shortly after his death in 1997.
All these horses played a part in maintaining the legacy of the Four Sixes. Whether the animals spend their lives working on the ranch, competing in races and other performances or sold at the most prestigious ranch auctions in the nation, each horse is bred for perfection.
Women in the Four Sixes’ saddle
The granddaughter of Burk Burnett, Anne Valliant Burnett, typically referred to as “Miss Anne,” inherited the Four Sixes after her father, Tom Burnett passed.
While Miss Anne received her education in the East, no one could ever say that she wasn’t a Texas cowgirl—she was well versed in all things livestock and her horses were champions. She was the founder of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and assisted in forming the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).
A strong-willed, intelligent, and impressive woman, Anne created the $200 million Burnett Foundation to continue the traditions of the ranch. She was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame posthumously.
Miss Anne had one child, Anne Burnett Windfohr Marion, who was known around the ranch as “Little Anne.” In Burnett’s will, he stated that his granddaughter’s unborn child would be granted his estate in a trust. By the time she took control of Burnett Ranches, it covered more than 266,000 acres across West Texas and was worth hundreds of millions of dollars in land alone.
She was always appreciated by the cowboys on the ranch due to her excellent skills in leadership and management.
A woman of accomplishment, Anne Marion founded the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M. and the Burnett Oil Company in Fort Worth. She was the director of the Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and many more organizations encompassing art, museums, agriculture, and ranching.
She was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame and the American Quarter Horse Association’s Hall of Fame along with receiving many other recognitions before her passing in early 2020.
A new history begins
Miss Anne decided that the Four Sixes Ranch properties were to be sold when she died. This includes the historic ranch in Guthrie, which itself boasts more than 142,000 acres with its own water filtration plant, employee houses, two bunk houses, an airplane hangar, and a private, jet-capable landing strip.
The 13,280 square-foot stone house on the property, built by Burt Burnett in 1917 for $100,000, has been visited by the likes of Will Rogers, President Theodore Roosevelt, and Quanah Parker. The nearby horse facilities hold an indoor training arena, as well as several barns and stables.
Many of the Four Sixes Ranch’s professionals are second- or third-generation, demonstrating a deep commitment and admiration for the Burnett family.
The new owners are just as committed to maintaining the epic history of the ranch.
The buyer’s agent, Don Bell of United Country Real Estate | Don Bell Properties, knew the owners would be the right fit and said “it is finding buyers who align with both the history and value of the ranch that make these types of historic deals come together.”
The Four Sixes Ranch is the story of land, cattle, oil, and horses. It is the story of Texas, its history, and its legends…where everything is bigger.
Thanks to United Country Real Estate and the Four Sixes Ranch for this article
Dedicated 6666 Ranch employees share their vision
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