The World’s inhabitable land is 36.8 billion acres. But who owns the most land in the world? Let’s break it down.
The family of the now-deceased Queen Elizabeth II is the largest landowner in the world. Led by King Charles III, the Royal family technically owns an astonishing 6.75 billion acres of land by being the head of the Commonwealth nations, which includes the UK, Canada, Australia, and others.
With an unending interest in land issues not just in the US but all around the world, I’ve always done extensive research on land matters. I also did derive most of the information from statistics by The New Statesman as well as The Land Report.
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How much land does the royal family of Great Britain own?
Although Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain passed on in September 2022, her family remains the biggest landowners in the world. Now led by King Charles III, the royal family are the owners of the British Commonwealth and all the nations under the commonwealth umbrella including Canada, Northern Ireland, and Australia.
As the head of the British Commonwealth which consists of 56 member states and the king of 32 countries, King Charles III is the legal owner of around 6.6 billion acres of land globally. If I may put this into perspective, the royal family of Britain owns a mammoth one-sixth of the land surface on earth!
The reality, however, is that the royal family of Britain doesn’t actually own all the land in their territories. Instead, these swathes of land are owned by millions of the Majesty’s subjects who hold the title granted by the crown- on the parcels of land.
Some of the vast territories of Britain’s royal family include Australia, which is the second-largest country in the world, and Canada, which is the world’s third-largest country.
Who are the other largest landowners in the world?
While the royal family of Britain is by far and large the world’s largest landowners, here are other land barons worth mentioning.
The Catholic Church
With an approximated 70 million hectares of land across the globe, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Catholic Church is the second largest landowner in the world.
Its headquarter is in Vatican City and sits on 110 acres of land. This makes it the smallest independent city-state in the world. It’s headed by the Pope who owns all the land of the church’s institutions across the world including parishes, schools, and hospitals.
Besides more than 220,000 parishes around the world, the Catholic church owns schools, physical properties, real estate, and farmlands throughout the world.
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
Headed by King Abdullah, the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is under absolute royal control, which makes the king the owner of an entire country!
This means that King Abdullah owns and controls an astonishing 232 million hectares of land. Oil operations are the backbone of Saudi Arabia’s economy, which is why King Abdullah is one of the richest people in the world.
King Mohammed VI of Morocco
A member of both the Arab League and the African Union, Morocco is strategically placed as a key trading point connecting Africa and Europe. King Mohammed VI is the owner of the entire country which is an estimated 70.8 million hectares of land.
The Inuit people of Nunavut
For many centuries, the indigenous Inuit people were nomadic people who spent their time hunting and fishing in the arctic and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.
With a huge population of these beautiful people living in the northern parts of Canada, the Canadian government signed an agreement in 1993, which led to the formation of the Nunavut territory in 1999. As a result, the Inuit own an enormous 35.29 million hectares in northern Canada, making them the third-largest landowners in the world.
King Letsie 111 of Lesotho
The Southern African country of Lesotho maybe 11,718 square miles but it’s known for producing one of the best diamond qualities in the world.
The country’s king retains the titles of all lands owned by his subjects in the country making him one of the biggest landowners in southern Africa.
Zhongding Dairy Farming and Severny Bur
With more than 8.9 million hectares of land, the Mudanjiang City Mega Farm in China is the world’s largest farm. This dairy farm is almost the size of Portugal and is home to more than 100,000 cows that produce roughly 800 million liters of milk annually.
This farm is a joint venture between Zhongding of China and Severny Bur of Russia with an extensive market in the two nations.
The Inuvialuit people of the Inuvialuit settlement region
Living in Canada’s western arctic, the Inuvialuit people own 8.9 million hectares of land. This is after the Canadian government signed the Western Arctic Claims Settlement Act in 1984, which gives the Inuvialuit people ownership of millions of acres in the western arctic.
The largest private landowners in Australia
Australia has the largest number of private landowners in the world. For this reason, let’s look at the land barons Down Under. But before that, here’s a summary table.
She’s Australia’s wealthiest person and the richest woman in the world. She’s a mining magnate and a proud owner of about 1.2% of Australia’s total landmass.
Her 9.1 million hectares of land, which is mostly used for mining and farming, makes her the largest private landowner in Australia.
The Costello and Oldfield families
In 2018, two farming families in Australia, the Donny Costello family and the Viv Oldfield families entered into a joint venture to buy a cattle farm in Clifton Hills in South Australia.
Known as the Crown Point Pastoral Company, this company holds 7.7 million hectares and is one of the biggest farms in the world.
This is an Australian-based farming business and owners of 5.06 million hectares. A major supplier of wool, this family business has been in existence since 1888. It’s wholly owned by the descendants of the family.
British Tycoon Joe Lewis, the owner of Premier League Club Tottenham Hotspurs, is the majority shareholder of the Australian Agricultural Company. The company owns and operates vast swathes of land estimated to be around 6.4 million hectares mostly in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
North Australian Pastoral Company
Having been in operation since the 1870s, this company is one of the world’s biggest and most successful cattle farming companies. The land owned by this company is estimated to be about 6 million hectares mostly in Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The eponymous family group that manages Western Australia’s The Rises in western Australia is headed by Paddy Handbury. The company and an approximated 5.28 million hectares of agricultural land.
The Williams family
This family owns the largest working cattle station in the world with over 4.5 million hectares of land.
Most of this land is used for rearing cattle as they operate the famous Arcoona Cattle Station and the Wagyu cattle property in South Australia.
This is another Australian family that has been in the cattle-rearing business since the 1870s. It owns more than 3.1 million hectares with the Miranda Downs Cattle Station being at the center of its business operations.
Through Australian Country Choice, which is one of the most successful farming companies, this family owns vast swathes of land that are estimated to be over 1.75 million hectares.
Who are the largest private landowners in the US?
The United States is approximated to be about 3.7 million square miles of land. To put it into perspective, this is about 2.27 billion acres of land.
The table below highlights the biggest land barons in the United States.
While the federal government owns and controls 27.1% of the country, most land (60%) is controlled by private individuals. But who are these people? Let’s take a look.
The Irving Family
John, James, and Arthur Irving are heirs to the J.D. Irving Group of companies. This Canadian-American family company owns more than 1.5 million hectares of land in New Brunswick, Maine, and Nova Scotia.
Most of this land is forest land, which stretches thousands of miles and is generally used to produce paper and pulp materials.
Owned by the Emerson family, Sierra Pacific Industries is one of the largest private landowners in the country. The family owns a total of 2.3 million acres across the country in states such as California, Oregon, and Washington.
With an estimated land of 2.2 million acres, the Malone family owns huge square miles of land in various states including New Mexico, New Hampshire, Wyoming, Colorado, and Maine.
This family has owned and controlled the Simpson Logging Company for more than a century. The family owns a total of 2.1 million acres of land in Oregon, California, and Washington.
With 2 million acres of land, Ted Turner is one of the largest private landowners in the United States. His huge swathes of land are in various states including South Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Kansas, and New Mexico.
The sports mogul is well-known for owning various sports teams but he’s also one of the biggest landowners in the US with more than 1.6 million acres of land.
He owns the Waggoner ranch, which is the biggest cattle ranch in Texas.
Peter Buck is the co-founder of Subways Restaurants. He also owns a huge timberland in Maine that sits on 1.2 million acres of land.
The owner of Commonwealth Brands, Kelley owns 1.1 million acres of land in South Texas with more than 10,000 elk roaming freely on his ranch.
This family owns an estimated 1.1 million acres of land in California and New Mexico. They operate one of the world's largest and most successful cattle farms.
Originally bought by Captain Richard King in 1853, the King Ranch is still under the control of the family. They own more than 910,000 million acres of land in Texas and California.
About THE AUTHOR
Brittany has been in the land business since 2020 when the world was starting to shut down. Since then, we’ve sold to dozens of people from ATV weekend warriors to camping enthusiasts to retired truck drivers. Our inventory spans mostly in the western United States. We’ve been trained by experience, land acquisition courses, and hundreds of hours meeting with county assessors and clerks, zoning officials, realtors, and land investors. We’ve answered hundreds of questions from people regarding the buying and use of land.Read More About Brittany Melling