Colorful Texas cattleman and pioneer in bringing the Brahman breed to Texas.
1834-1900 | Artist: Othmar J. Hoffler (1893-1954)
Impact & Accomplishments
One of the more colorful cattlemen in Texas history, Abel Head “Shanghai” Pierce began his life in Rhode Island, but he stowed away on a schooner bound for Texas at age nineteen. He went to work on a ranch there, learning enough about cattle to purchase a few of his own.
During the Civil War, he handled cattle for the Confederate Army, returning home to find that his holdings were gone. In 1871 he established Rancho Grande in Wharton County with his brother, growing the ranch to 250,000 acres. The Pierce-Sullivan Pasture Company sent thousands of cattle north by trail and rail.
He traveled abroad to find a breed of cattle resistant to ticks that he feared carried disease, and believed that the Brahman cattle in India held promise. He did not live to see his theory tested, but immediately after his death, his family imported the Brahman cattle that would form the foundation of Texas’s great herds today.
Did You Know?
In his efforts to solve the mystery of Texas fever, Pierce experimented in removing ticks and concluded that the ticks caused the fever. He toured Europe in search of a breed of cattle immune to ticks, and returned without a definite solution but with the conviction that Brahman cattle were most likely to be immune. Brahman Cattle at the Pierce Ranch, circa 1906. Photo credit: Texas State Historical Assoc.
Abel H. Pierce's Letterhead, dated April 27, 1886. Photo credit: Texas State Historical Assoc.