Jerry Jones’ Link to an Exotic Animal Park Makes Him Seem More Like ‘Jerry Exotic’

Jerry Jones is one of the most eccentric owners in sports. The larger-than-life oil magnate perfectly encapsulates the Dallas Cowboys’ brand. However, his quirks get even stranger when he’s away from football. From art collections to branding, Jones runs on a different fuel than most owners could dream of. Perhaps, this is best shown by his role in a popular Missouri animal park’s conception.

Jerry Jones’ humble origins

Jones grew up in North Little Rock, Arkansas, according to Best of Arkanas Sports. He didn’t come from acquired wealth. While his family wasn’t in the poor house, his father owned two grocery stores called Pat’s Market. There, his family made a comfortable living until tragedy struck and one of the stores burnt down. After the family moved away, his father Pat switched careers and headed to the Modern Security Life insurance company. 

With Pat as one of its best salespeople, the insurance company skyrocketed in value. Before long, Pat climbed up the ladder to the top of the company. However, after Jerry played football at Arkansas, he didn’t have the same passion for insurance that his father had. However, he acquired his father’s business savvy sense and made the best of it, anyway. 

In the early ’70s, Pat was aging and hoping to settle down after selling the insurance company. He bought some property just outside of Springfield in Rogersville, Missouri, 5,500 acres. He started to import exotic animals onto the property with hopes that tourists and locals would come to see some species that they’d never seen before. Before long, it grew into a 500-acre park with 35 full-time employees and over 3,000 animals. 

The Jones family sells their exotic farm

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones leaves the field in 2012
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2012 | Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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Fans of the hit Netflix series Tiger King might worry about where this story is headed, but it seems to have avoided the most sordid aspects of Joe Exotic’s adventures. Missouri: Exotic animals went to the same company that owns Carole Baskin’s park in the series. Jerry, however, didn’t want anything to do with it. 

However, when Pat Jones passed away in the mid-’90s, Jerry had little interest in the park, reports Big Cat Rescue. He sold it to a man named David Dean. Although it resided on his father’s hand, Jones wanted no part of its operations. There’s little evidence to show that he ever visited the park his father created. However, the company’s story goes to show that Jones was not the first visionary of his family. 

The park his father started became one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Springfield area, according to the property website. However, a decade after Jones sold it, the original park shuttered. It eventually became Wild Animal Safari, although parts of the park remain on the original property. The park is thriving under new ownership, but Jones has found a decent amount of success following his true passion — football. 

No regrets for Jerry Jones

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Jones might have sold off his parents’ passion project, but it never really hurt him. He purchased the Cowboys in the late ’80s for $150 million at a time when the team was losing money, and Jones didn’t have the expendable income to pay its monthly debts. However, under Jones’ leadership, he and the Cowboys are now worth over $9 billion. People might not like Jones or his team, but this is a testament to how he helped to build them into the behemoth that they are today. 

Jones’s days as an animal owner are limited to family pets, but he’s inherited some of his father in different ways. While Pat Jones might have used his wealth for animals, Jones uses his for art and other interests away from oil and football. Deep down, however, their stories are quite similar, even if Pat never reached the wealth of his son.