Read Cattle Brands

Branding is a common method of marking the ownership of cattle and other livestock.

Branding is a permanent, effective method of proving ownership. The practice, commonly used on cattle, can be traced back as far as 2700 B.C., with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting the branding of oxen. Ancient Romans and Greeks applied these marks of ownership to both livestock and slaves with hot irons, and in 1541, Hernando Cortez brought the practice from Spain to the New World. Today, there are thousands of different cattle brands, and though reading them may look complicated, it is not too difficult if you follow a few rules.


Read Cattle Brands

1. Learn some history. The background of a brand can affect its design. For example, early Spanish brands are more elaborate than many modern brands. To trace the history of a particular brand, you will need to know the county and state that used it. Contact the county clerk and inquire about the brand records book.

2. Study the “language” of branding. Brands are made up of capital letters, numbers, simple pictures, and even characters and symbols, such as slashes, circles and bars. Pictures are typically alone, but letters, numbers and symbols often are in combination, and even their positioning is important. They may be upright, slanted or “lazy,” hanging, combined, connected, or reversed. The ability to read cattle brands by decoding these various combinations is known as “callin’ the brand.”

3. Follow the directions. You read cattle brands from left to right and from top to bottom. For example, a bar symbol followed by the letter J is read as a Bar J brand. If the brand is enclosed, read the outer symbol first. For instance, a J with a circle surrounding it is a Circle J brand.