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Wyoming Dinosaur Ranch: Mike and Jake Harris ranch where the cows and triceratops roam

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Mike Harris and his son Jake have owned their ranch outside of Newcastle for 27 years. Prior to this, they ranched outside of Custer, S.D. 

Running cows has always been a way of life for the two Harris men, and their cow/calf operation thrives on the short, high-protein grass of northeastern Wyoming.  

“There is a lot of short grass around here, but it’s pretty powerful,” explains Jake. “It packs a punch. We try to rotate a lot in the summer – every four days or so. We try to do some rotational grazing, and it sure keeps the flies low. We’ve found when we move out of a pasture, the pasture grows back really well, especially if we get some rain after.”

Natural innovations

Throughout the ranch, one will find dugouts in many of the draws. With the help of an excavator, Mike strategically dug watering holes to collect precipitation and runoff. 

With the help of these additional water sources, the water pipeline throughout the ranch is more of a tool than a necessity. 

“If we get decent moisture in the summertime, we really don’t have to rely on the pipelines. So, the cows just mosey about a quarter mile to water at the dugouts,” Jake says.

“We split our pastures up small enough they don’t have to walk a mile or a mile and a half to water, which we think has had a huge impact on the health of the calves too, because the calves aren’t trailing behind the cows as they kick up dust over long distances,” he adds.

Nature’s gifts

Jake knows the secret to happiness can usually be found on the back of a horse. 

“Being horseback is so great because you can just experience nature,” says Jake. “You hear the rattlesnakes and the birds. You can hear cows bellering from a mile away.”

It was on horseback about 20 years ago Jake noticed a bone sticking out of the bank. Little did he know, it would change the trajectory of the ranch forever. 

“There was actually a guy from California we were leasing a place from, and the only reason he bought the place was specifically for dinosaurs. He told us we probably had dinosaurs on our place too,” explains Jake. “Turns out, they’re pretty much all over. We’ve found probably 20-plus representations of triceratops alone, from juveniles to adults.”

Since the discovery of the dinosaurs, the Harris’ have dug up thousands of fossils, including the fourth most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world and the most complete Denversaurus in the world. 

Those who are interested in paleontology and dinosaurs, might recognize Mike and Jake from “Discovery Channel’s” show “Dino Hunters.”

“The dinosaurs have definitely been a supplement to the ranch, and they’re very much a part of the ranch now. When we’re rotating pastures, if we have dinosaur digs going on, we just put panels around them so the cows don’t stomp on them,” says Jake. 

The Wyoming Dinosaur Ranch is now set up to host dinosaur enthusiasts. People come from across the country to get a taste of the real West while getting their hands dirty as they dig for fossils. 

“I love sharing what we do with people,” explains Jake. “We take a lot of people out to our microsite – our friends from town; kids; people from church; cousins, aunts and uncles and hunters who have been coming out for years. I do a lot of presenting at our local schools, from Buffalo to Casper to Chadron and everywhere in between.”

At the end of the day, the ranch is still a cow/calf operation dealing with the same problems as everyone else, from leaky pipelines to fixing fence. 

“We’re just trying to stay ahead of the game,” says Jake. 

For more information on Wyoming Dinosaur Ranch, visit

Tressa Lawrence is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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