The OH Ranch is one of the last places in North America where a cowboy can still be a cowboy, but anyone looking to live in the past will have to pay a price that is firmly based on hopes for the future.
The property 45-minutes south of Calgary is for sale, and the asking price is $49.2-million. The new owner will be betting that the investment in about 50,000 acres of rolling foothills, along with 2,000 Angus cattle, will be enough to generate enough profit to stay in business because conservation regulations would make it difficult to undertake any new development on the ranch.
"The goal of the ranch operation is to provide top quality, high performance stock and genetics suitable for any cattle operation while maintaining and preserving environmental sustainability and the unique history and traditions of ranching in Western Canada," the sales brochure states.
It's difficult to gauge the market for such a property - most ranches of that size are commercially run and change hands outside of public view. Ranches listed at albertaranchesforsale.com tend to be between 200 to 1,000 acres and come with a residential home, with prices rarely breaching the $5-million mark.
The ranch was founded in 1881 by a buffalo hunter named Lafayette French and a mule skinner named Orville Hawkins Smith, who bought some cattle and squatted on the land that would become the main ranch. They chose Mr. Smith's initials OH as their brand, a happy coincidence since the letters are two of only seven which can be used upside down or backward and still be readable on the cattle.
The ranch would see several owners over the next century, with tycoon Doc Seaman buying it in 1987.
He began intensive cattle breeding operations after saving it from a likely future as a military training site, and went out of his way to maintain its authenticity.
Mr. Seaman was an Alberta icon - he was the first owner of the Calgary Flames and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010 as a builder. He died in January, 2009.
"The ranch has always operated using traditional methods," the material states. "Cowboys continue to ride the range, moving cattle and doctoring sick animals in the open field by roping from horseback. The OH Ranch is one of the few large cattle outfits in North America which continues to operate using historic methods."
The family has said that proceeds of the sale will go to charity.