Many people today have loyalty to their favorite brands of products, but ranchers of the West were more familiar with a different type of brand. The branding iron provided a way for ranchers to stake their claim on cattle and other livestock while deterring theft from rustlers.
The earliest records of livestock branding date back to the ancient Egyptians, but the practice came to America by way of European travelers.
After they became more widely used by ranches, custom branding irons were made to differentiate one ranch’s herd from another. Variations of brands like crazy, lazy, flying, running and walking soon populated the West to ensure that a ranch’s insignia stood out.
Besides the traditional hot branding, other methods include electric brands, which uses an electric heating element, and freeze branding, which uses dry ice or liquid nitrogen to chill the iron.
Today the branding iron’s use can be seen as a wood burning tool, custom branding steak or barbecue, and marking livestock in the same tradition that has been practiced for thousands of years.
For more information on branding irons, visit the American Cowboy Gallery.