In times past, livestock owners relied upon branding as a method of identification and even proof of ownership. Branding books were made to chronicle registered brands, their owners and ranches. These books are still in use today, and even provided to law enforcement personnel to aide in identifying lost or stolen livestock. We are very excited at Equine Quick Response (EQR) to embark upon a project set to take these noble traditions into the world of modern technology, primarily for the benefit of horse owners. This technology will allow law enforcement, veterinarians, sale barn attendees, and private parties to simply snap a cell phone or digital photo of a suspect or found horse, as well as a close-up of its brand, and submit to EQR right from their smart phone or computer for identification and ownership confirmation purposes. Membership will place brand, contact and property information into a retrievable national database. Annual or life-time memberships will be available with EQR, with our database being set to launch this coming February 2014.
EQR’s national database will utilize modern technology with the tradition of branding. In addition to being able to register your brand to identify your horse and provide crucial contact information for the safe return of your horse, EQR members will also be able to:
- Post provided signs and window/vehicle decals serving as theft deterrent for each member; displaying EQR registry with national database and contact information
- Order decals of personal, registered brand to apply to truck/trailers
- Register trailers/trucks with EQR and utilize the same identification services offered for horses
- Order custom branding irons
In the event that a horse is lost or stolen, EQR will initiate a media blast to veterinarians, border/customs, US processing plants and state law enforcement with contact info, side views of horse, close up/location of brand, and contact for specific visual identification.
HISTORY OF LIVESTOCK BRANDING
Livestock branding is a technique for marking livestock so as to identify the owner. Originally, livestock branding only referred to a hot brand for large stock, though the term is now also used to refer to other alternative techniques such as freeze branding. Other forms of livestock identification include inner lip or ear tattoos, earmarking, ear tagging, and RFID tagging with a type of microchip. The semi-permanent paint markings used to identify sheep are called a paint or colour brand. In the American West, branding evolved into a complex marking system still in use today.
The act of marking livestock with fire-heated marks to identify ownership has origins in ancient times, with use dating back to the ancient Egyptians. Among the ancient Romans, the symbols used for brands were sometimes chosen as part of a magic spell aimed at protecting animals from harm.
The unique brand meant that cattle owned by multiple ranches could then graze freely together on the open range. Cowboys could then separate the cattle at “roundup” time for driving to market. Cattle rustlers using “running irons” were ingenious in changing brands. Brands became so numerous that it became necessary to record them in books that the ranchers could carry in their pockets. Laws were passed requiring the registration of brands, and the inspection of cattle driven through various territories. Penalties were imposed on those who failed to obtain a bill of sale with a list of brands on the animals purchased.
Free-range or open-range grazing is less common today than in the past. However, branding still has its uses. The main purpose is in proving ownership of lost or stolen animals. Many western US states have strict laws regarding brands, including brand registration, and require brand inspections. In many cases, a brand on an animal is considered prima facie proof of ownership.
Brand Books are used by law enforcement officials, brand inspectors, and association investigators to record and track livestock movement, deter loss of livestock by straying or theft, and prosecute thieves. Brand books are made available to law enforcement for free, while others may purchase from their County Exentsion Agents. Some states have their brand books available online.