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The birthplace of commercial ranching

The 18th-century Rancho de las Cabras is the birthplace of commercial ranching, and now it needs funding in order to be preserved.

Ruins that archeologists call one of the last links to the original ranches and cowboys that shaped Texas have been kept behind a gate, literally buried, for more than two decades – awaiting the funding that would allow people to see them.

The 18th-century Rancho de las Cabras complex, with its stone building remains, was a birthplace of the large commercial ranching operations that would help define the state. Preservationists have long hoped it could be fully excavated and opened to the public, but the site has been unable to attract the money it would need from Congress or the National Park Service’s stretched budget.

“It’s one of these kind of once-in-a-lifetime sites. You’re not going to be able to see something like this anywhere else in the world,’’ said Park Service archeologist Susan Snow. “The mission ranches brought what we know today as the modern cattle industry.’’

The 100-acre site about 30 miles southeast of San Antonio was donated 32 years ago to the state, which handed it to the Park Service nearly 15 years ago as an addition to the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.

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