Yesterday is important, but the focus is also tomorrow,” says Paul Genho, vice president and general manager of the sprawling and storied King Ranch, headquartered in Kingsville, TX.

That statement underscores the driving philosophy that enabled Capt. Richard King — indentured by his Irish immigrant parents to a jeweler at the age of 9 — to carve out a vast cattle empire that's remained in the same family for 150 years.

“We feel like we have an obligation to make things better,” says Genho. “We don't walk away from our legacy or deny our heritage, but part of that heritage is being progressive.”

Many historians consider the King Ranch as the cradle of American cattle ranching. King was among the first to systematically propagate cattle, rather than merely gather the native strays and send them to market.

He started with the Longhorns he found on both sides of the border along the Gulf Coast. By 1920 his family had blended Brahman and Shorthorn cattle to forge the foundation for Santa Gertrudis, the first beef breed developed in the U.S. Today, it's the leading composite in Australia.

Along the way, the King Ranch is credited with inventing a number of industry standards. These include the dipping vat in 1891 to rid cattle of the Texas fever tick, net wire fencing in 1933 and the root plow in 1935, which continues to be an integral brush management tool.

At the same time, the King Ranch has worked on its own and funded an untold number of industry studies that have led to modern micro-nutrition, wildlife management, range management, genetic selection, coordinated production and marketing, and the list goes on.

They also are among the founders of the quarter horse breed and that breed's association.