The ranch started operations in 1885 and at its peak averaged handling 150,000 head of cattle within its 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of fencing. The ranch also erected 325 windmills and 100 dams across its land.
The famous XIT brand imprinted on the backside of the ranch's cattle arose from the low-cost, practical use of a single-bar brand being able to make an "X", an "I" and a "T" with a single heat iron (no custom-ordered shape being required!).
However timing was bad for the XIT as cattle prices crashed in 1886 and 1887. By the fall of 1888, the ranch was unable to sell its cattle and break even. The cattle on the ranch were constantly plagued by cattle rustlers and predators, especially wolves leading to further losses for the syndicate.
In 1901, the syndicate that owned the ranch began selling off the land to pay off foreign investors as the bonds became due. By 1905, most of the land was subdivided, with large tracts being sold to other cattlemen and small amounts of land being sold to farmers. The last of the XIT cattle were sold on November 1, 1912, and land sales subsequently increased.
Charles B. Farwell died in 1903 and John V. Farwell died in 1908.
Though the XIT was the largest and one of the best known of the cattle ranches, the JA Ranch to its east covered portions of six counties, and more than 130 years after its founding by Charles Goodnight and John George Adair, the JA remains a working ranch owned by the Adair heirs. XIT is currently bigger than both Rhode Island and Connecticut with an area comprising about 6,000 sq miles (about 15,000 km²).