Livestock Brands

Our big bay gelding Yukon has a pair of bright white letters on his hip – “MB”.  He’s in his late 20s, approaching 30.  It’s safe to assume the brand has been there since he was just a youngster, maybe a year old.

We are often asked about Yukon’s brand, so I thought I’d share with you a bit about brands.

As a kid I often went with my uncle to round up cattle and brand them.  He did it the “easy” way, by just running them into a squeeze chute and using an electric brand.  We only did a few cattle at a time and this was an easy way for just the two of us to get it done quickly.  We’d run each steer into the squeeze chute and clamp it shut.  Then he’d brand them, give them a shot, and if he had to he’d lop the tips off their horns.  

Here’s a fun video of some branding in a ranch setting.

Livestock are branded mainly to identify ownership.  Branding is also used to identify the animal’s origin — the Bureau of Land Management freeze-brands mustangs on their neck with a marking that indicates the horse’s year of birth and registration number.  Ancient Egyptians used fire-brands to identify ownership and sometimes with symbols meant to protect the animals.  

Some common branding techniques are fire branding (straight out of the westerns), freeze branding, and tattooing.  

  • Fire Branding:  a branding iron is heated either over a fire, a propane torch, or has an electric heating element.  The brand results in bare skin, and over time becomes hard to read.  brand
  • Freeze Branding:  a branding iron is super-cooled.  This branding method leaves the hair permanently white in the shape of the brand.  This is like Yukon’s brand.  freezebrand
  • Tattooing:  this is literally tattooing and is usually done on the inside of the upper lip of a horse.  Usually done on race horses.Equine_liptatoo250

People use brands to identify their tack as well.  Brands are registered through the state’s branding agency, a part of the Department of Ag.  

Our brand is officially registered with the Washington State Department of Agriculture.  It is a horseshoe wine-glass (full of wine!).  


Reading brands is like learning a new language and I’ll provide you a link because I really couldn’t do a better job of explaining it.  Go to the Cowboy Showcase site here: for more brand information.


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