Legendary cattleman who ran one of the largest cattle operations in the world and a powerful leader who advocated for his fellow stock growers both in the United States and Brazil.
1850-1939 | Artist: Robert Wadsworth Grafton (1876-1936)
Impact & Accomplishments
Born to tenant farmers in County Ross, Scotland, Murdo Mackenzie eventually became one of the largest cattle operators in the world.
While apprenticing in a bank, a customer hired him to be an assistant factor, helping to oversee the agricultural interests of a 500,000-acre estate. Ten years later, in 1885, an Edinburgh syndicate hired him to manage the Prairie Cattle Company in Trinidad, Colorado. Mackenzie quickly became a U. S. citizen and was elected mayor of Trinidad.
In 1891, Mackenzie took over the Colorado and Texas herds for the Scots-owned Matador Land and Cattle Company, and he improved the herds dramatically by investing in purebred cattle. He was president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and then became founding president of the American Stock Growers Association.
Mackenzie’s congressional testimony helped the Hepburn Act of 1906 pass, securing fairer rates for Western shippers. President Roosevelt appointed him to the National Conservation Commission in 1908.
In 1912, he moved to São Paulo to become manager of the Brazil Land, Cattle, and Packing Company. There he acquired and stocked tens of millions of acres of land and established one of the nation’s first packing plants. Murdo Mackenzie returned to Colorado and to Matador in 1918. He retired in 1937.
Did You Know?
MacKenzie appears as a character in the fictional Scrooge McDuck comic book, The Buckaroo of the Badlands (1992), set in 1882, in which the poor, newly hired Scrooge, helped by Theodore Roosevelt, rescues a championship bull belonging to MacKenzie. In Raider of the Copper Hill (1993), set in 1884, Scrooge leaves Mackenzie to prospect for copper while his former employer drives his herd to Texas.
Murdo Mackenzie enjoyed playing the violin. Family photo from Lori Whitener.
Murdo, South Dakota was named for Mackenzie. Video courtesy of South Dakota Video Tours.