Branding Time

Many of you have been branding your cattle on the ranch, among other things like dehorning, castrating and tagging. A recent post on the really helped explain the nomenclature that goes along with cattle branding.

This is a wild rag folks. Image courtesy of

I (Robin) am an Indiana native. I attended college in Kansas, and was introduced to the cowboy way of life in Manhattan, Kan., at Kansas State University. I thought I knew a lot about cattle, but these kids schooled me. I had never seen anyone wear spurs or a wild rag to class (nor fully understood their purpose), but I got quite an education in the “western lifestyle” while at K-State!

When I came across this blog post called, “Decoding the Range: The Secret Language of Cattle Branding” I had to read it! I loved it. According to the article, cattle branding dates back to 2700 BC. But the act itself is synonymous with the Old West, where brands identified a cow’s owner, protected cattle from rustlers or cattle thieves and helped separate them at the stockyards.

Also, I always wondered what made a lazy A vs. a walking A – got it now!

There are so many variations of the letters used for brands. Here’s a visual list created by the Smithsonian.

The blog went onto say, “These colorful designations aren?t just cute nicknames used to identify the characters, but are actually a part of the name, a spoken part of the brand language, which like most western languages is read from left to right, top to bottom and, perhaps unique to brands, outside to inside.”
If you are as intrigued by cattle branding as I am, and want to know a little bit more about the history, I invite you to read the Smithsonian’s post yourself. This may be old news to some of you, and on some level I envy you! (But, if you ever want to know about growing crops in the Corn Belt, I’m your girl.)
Cattle branding is as old as the West itself. Photo courtesy of