Day Trips: Exotic Wildlife Tours, Mountain Home

Excursions to the wildlife habitat give a look at a Texas legend

Photos by Gerald E. McLeod

Exotic wildlife tours at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters west of Kerrville are a continuation of a Texas legend.

The story began when Charles Schreiner drove longhorns up the Western Trail to Kansas to raise capital. The enterprise grew into an empire of mercantile, banking, and ranching on the Texas frontier. He also experimented with raising exotic breeds of sheep.

In the 1950s his son began importing African animals to the ranch. The first were surplus stock from the San Antonio Zoo. The wildlife menagerie grew to 22 species plus the ranch's bison, longhorns, cattle, and sheep, says Debbie Hagebusch, director of tourism for the ranch.

Among the gazelles, giraffes, and wildebeests are foreign species that are either extinct or endangered in their native range. Hagebusch says the animals do well because of careful herd management and a habitat that is similar to their home.

The ranch offers two-hour bus tours, private tours in an open-air ATV (which is really special), and five-hour deluxe tours. The excursions allow visitors to look around the historic ranch, interact with the animals, and have lunch.

Captain Schreiner purchased the ranch that grew to more than 600,000 acres in 1880. He named it after a cattle brand purchased from Y.O. Coleman. In 2015, the heirs sold 5,300 acres that became the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. The new owners have breathed fresh life into the ranch's operation, especially the unique lodging options.

Y.O. Ranch Headquarters is near Mountain Home in western Kerr County. Reser­va­tions are required. A visit gives a behind-the-scenes look at wildlife from around the world on a working ranch. For more info, call 830/640-3222 or go to

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Y.O. Ranch Headquarters, Charles Schreiner, wildlife tours, Mountain Home

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