Brands. From Apple's nibbled apple logo to Coca-Cola's scarlet script brands surround us every waking moment. And it all started with the cowboys.
Branding was developed to meet the needs of a particular time and place. For much of its history the range lands of the American west had no owners. The cattle which did have owners roamed freely across this expanse until it was time to round them up at market time. The western cattle brand was a mark of ownership which lasted the life of the animal, was hard to remove or alter and which could be read from a distance.
Branding cattle should not be compared to branding a human being. A cow's hide is much thicker than human skin and the brand is not burned into the skin. A proper brand applies just enough heat to kill the hair follicles under it leaving a recognizable pattern in the hair. Of course the cattle don't like it but considering that branding, de-horning and castration are all done at the same time, it is likely that the branding is not the most memorable event.
These days, fire branding is being replaced by other techniques such as freeze branding and ear tagging. Biometrics and microchips provide methods for tracking each individual animal from birth to the meat counter and will probably eventually replace branding entirely.
Brands can be traded, bought and sold like any other property. Sometimes, certain brands go with certain ranches and the two are sold as a package. Often a ranch is named after its brand. In other cases, a brand belongs to a family and the brand will be passed down from one generation to the next.
Brand books list every registered brand in a given district. This is a page from a 1927 Grant County brand book. Some of these brands have lapsed, some are being used by the original families and some have been handed on to new owners.
The rules for \"calling a brand\": Top to bottom, left to right, outside in. Letters on their sides are \"lazy\" so the brand on this barn is \"bar lazy S\". But really, we are talking about cowboys here. If someone wants to do it differently, no one will try to stop them. A person can make up any brand they like, put it on anything they want to and call it whatever pleases them. The only restraint is that if you want to use a brand to establish ownership of livestock, the brand must be registered with the state. In Oregon the only requirement is that you can't register a brand that is already in use.
Here's an example of brand calling. This would be the \"J F\" of perhaps the \"J F joined\" or or it might be \"fat Ralph's brand \". It all depends and you just have to ask the owner to be certain.
Here's a lazy E, a rocking F, a swinging H, a circle crazy S, and lots more. Or maybe their names are something completely different. The third figure from the left in the top row belonged to a neighbor who died many years ago. I don't have any idea what it was called and then and I can't find anybody who knows now.
Brands, once the tools of dusty, sweat-stained cattle wranglers, now the toys of advertising men and marketing executives. The Grant County Ranch and Rodeo Museum is one organization that is trying to preserve a little bit of the history of cattle brands in the American west. In the spring of 2014, the museum hopes to offer an opportunity to actually own a historic Oregon cattle brand. Winning bidders will get a complete history of their brand, registration of the brand with the Oregon Department of Agriculture which secures exclusive ownership of that brand for four years and membership in the museum. Each brand is unique with its own history and the number offered will be very limited. If you would like to be the exclusive owner of a historic Grant County cattle brand, click through to the next page and ask to be added to our Historic Cattle Brand Auction mailing list.
Written in Letters of Fire
this is a picture caption
Page 44 of 44