January 29, 2011


Stephen Bly

Whether it’s a western novel like my latest, Cowboy For A Rainy Afternoon, or a western movie like Open Range or True Grit, the mention of brands is bound to happen. They’re a crucial factor of ranch life or out on the trail. I figured you might like to know some essentials of cattle branding.

Branding livestock dates back to circa 2700 B.C. Hieroglyphic paintings in Egyptian tombs document that. Hot irons were used by ancient Greeks and Romans. The Spaniard Hernando Cortez introduced branding to the New World in 1541. His mark: three crosses. Brands provide a visible, permanent proof of ownership and deterrent to theft.

The original Spanish brands tended to be rich in design, but complicated and impractical. The early American ranchers desired simpler designs. . .a snap to remember, easy to make, ones that didn’t blotch and couldn’t be altered without a great challenge.

Brands speak a language of their own and follow certain rules. The ability to read these symbols is referred to ‘callin’ the brand.’

Brands are composed of capital letters of the alphabet, numerals, pictures, and characters such as slash  /, circle  O, half-circle, cross +, _bar, etc.,  with  many combinations and adaptations.  

Letters can be used singly, joined, or in combinations.  They can be upright, XIT ;  lying down or "lazy" (i.e. lazy  S);  connected (i.e. V B connected) or combined, (i.e. V B combined); reversed (i.e. reverse B); 
or hanging  (i.e. V hanging S). 

Figures or numbers are used in the same way as the letters. 

Picture brands are usually used alone, for example (ladder)  or (rising sun). 

There  are  three accepted rules  for  reading  brands. 
     1.  Read from the left to the right:
ML (M L).
     2.  Read from the top to the bottom: __
           as in bar M.
     3.  When the brand is enclosed, it is read from the outside to the inside. . .
© . . . as in circle C.

So, what does all of that have to do with you?

A magnet on our frig states, “Trust everyone, but brand your cattle.”

That’s a principle that provides the balance of real life, not only in the Old West, but anywhere, any times you live in. Sure you can trust folks. But you can also protect yourself from those who just might not live up to that trust.

For more info on branding, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Livestock_branding



she must escape. he seeks revenge. they're   desperate to be left alone and especially away from each other. but it's a long, DANGEROUS, volatile  ride from omaha to sacramento . . . AND SOMEBODY'S GOT TO  throw the devil off the train.


Molly Noble Bull said...

Brands are interesting all right. Your new book looks super interesting.

old guy rambling said...

Nice post some good stuff. I teach a little history of brands and branding in my Wyoming history classes. Kids like it and love to make up their own.

Edna said...

Stephen I would love to receive and review your new book I do reviews on http://edna-myfavoritethings.blogspot.com/ and then post them on commercial sites also