The story of the Hokukano Ranch is an interesting one that goes back to the Mahalay when people other than the king were granted the right to own property. However, our story begins in 1984 when John Pace, Tomís father, decided to seek another place for his family to live. John decided that Saipan sounded like a place he wanted to investigate, and so off he went. As luck would have it, during the layover in Hawaii, he became ill with the flu. While he was recuperating he looked around our fair state and decided he liked what he saw and purchased some sugar land in the Puna district of the big island, Hawaii. During his search he also came across what is now the Hokukano ranch which was then owned by Norman Greenwell. In time John was able to purchase the ranch from Norman and thus our saga begins.
As John was a tree farmer early in his career, (see Pace family) he was very interested in the possibilities of having a forest based operation. So upon arriving on the ranch John and family preceded to plant a quarter million Koa trees. The saw mill was the main focus of the operation for the first few years. In time, problems with labor forced John to call upon his son, Tom, to manage the ranch. John was still involved with his other businesses and the ranch needed more attention than he could afford to give it still having to travel for his other interests. Tom jumped at the chance and in 1989 moved to Hawaii from South Africa to devote his full attention to one of the finer ranches in South Kona.
The ranch was void of cattle other than a few wild ones that the Greenwells left behind when they liquidated their operation. Since the land still needed to be managed, Tom elected to lease out parts of the ranch to contract grazers. Often he accepted payment in cattle, so that he could build his own herd. With that in mind and knowing he needed many more cattle to take care of all the grass on the ranch the decision was made to let breeding continue year round. And so the cattle began to proliferate with little management, although in the late 90ís there were several attempts to manage the cattle. Many were tagged and castrated but the ranch still lacked the infrastructure to harvest cattle on a regular basis, cull the herd and manage the bulls. As cattlemen are well aware, when you donít cull the bulls they get out of control, and so it happened on our beautiful ranch. As the bulls and cows proliferated so did the horses. They had also been turned out and again, there was little castration taking place, so the testosterone levels were high, along with plenty of colts.
In the meantime, Tom purchased the Kealakekua ranch, in 2004. Tom purchased it from an interim owner but the original owners were Sherwood Greenwell the cousin of Norman Greenwell who had owned Hokukano Ranch. Tom had managed to reunite the Greenwell ranches, which as historic places in west Hawaii, they rank at the top. The Kealakekua ranch was also being leased by contract grazers and Tom continued his policy of trading and buying cattle to manage the two ranches. The fence that divided the two ranches was not in tact so cattle were going back and forth between the two properties. At this point the numbers of cattle were significant enough that every calf crop was pushing on the resource limits of the ranches. This continued for another two years and in 2006 it was decided to clean up the ranches so that the conservation development plans for Hokukano could proceed and that the requirements of a conservation easement that was placed on the Kealakekua Ranch could be met.
In the spring of 2006 a plan was put into place to start to capture the cattle, horses, llamasí et al and put them behind fence on the Kealkekua Ranch. At this time a lottery among the employees was taken to see how many bulls people thought were on the ranches. At that time one could drive around the ranches and literally everywhere you looked there were bulls. At night the sounds from the forests was akin to an imagined scene from Danteís Inferno or Jurassic Park. Estimates at that time ranged from 600 to 1500 bulls. As of this writing we have captured and sent off the ranch over 800 bulls and we estimate that there are at least 100 more. Thatís a lot of bull and there are plenty of bull capturing stories to go with it. During this time a film documenting the Hawaiian cowboy was being made and we got the call to show how wild bulls could be roped. Fortunately for us, we have the Hawaiian version of Pecos Bill, Bronson Branco. When Bronson heard that there was a call for him to rope some big kine bulls you couldnít hold him back. So one day with the film crew, Bronson, Harold Denise and support crew went out to film the wild ones. You can enjoy some of that footage in the movie that is now on the shelves of local stores, ďHolo Holo PanioloĒ.
At the same time we started to capture the wild horses and cut the studs, bring in the young ones and halter break them and put the best mares with the best studs. To date we have castrated over one hundred horses and have some of the younger prospects under saddle or halter broke. The Hokukano horses are definitely South Kona tough. This area of Hawaii is exceptionally rugged and it takes a special horse to maneuver through the terrain and stay sound, thus the moniker, south Kona tough.
Currently we continue to round up the cattle and horses. With our limited infrastructure we can only hold a limited number of both horses and cattle. As our infrastructure grows we will be able to have a continuous inventory of horses of varying ages for the public. Our programs are in their infancies but we have built some small inventories that you can see on the rest of this site. We invite you to come and ride with us and enjoy the incredible diversity of the Hawaiian landscape. In so doing you may find one of those South Kona horses to be your friend and working partner. For now, Aloha , and may you always ride a good horse.
The Hokukano Crew