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Cattle Brands
Mark Originality

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Down through the year's columns I have written several about brands on livestock. The brands display at The Devil's Rope Museum in McLean is among the largest shown, or so we have been told. I have presented many programs on brands, many to schoolchildren.

My favorite ploy is passing out pipe cleaners to students, letting them create their own brands using their names as the subject.

The most ingenious design came from a young boy named Waterhouse whose brand contained a square with a peaked roof and inside, a line denoting waves like on a lake or the ocean.
Recently I acquired a book, "The Manual of Brands and Marks," published in 1970 by The University of Oklahoma Press, authored by Manfred Wolfenstine. If you are interested in the history of brands, this is the book to study.

Some of the interesting tidbits contained within the text follow.

To own a completely legitimate livestock brand in Texas it must be registered in the county where the brand is being used.

A brand may be canceled or abandoned by branding a bar across the original brand. This is called venting or barring out a brand. Only in Texas and for a short period of time, a series of letters, branded on the neck of an animal denoted the county of origination. This practice was abandoned quickly.

When early day trail herds were gathered for driving north to market, several brands might be included so a "road brand" was added to the owner's brands. It was not unusual for these herds to be sold several times along the way and other road brands added. Often when they reached Dodge or Wichita, Kan., they were described as "burned till they looked like a brand book."

Always read a brand from left to right, top to bottom and from outside to inside. A brand can be flying, lazy, benched, open letter, tumbling, walking, rocking, swinging, boxed, circled, raftered, mashed, backward and on and on.

The letter O can be round, mashed, squashed, quarter-circle, half-circle or three-fourths a circle. A circle within a circle is called a double circle.

A bar, the most simple design, can become a slash or a cut and slash, an I, a one or (as was used by John Chisum,) extended as a fence rail branded horizontally on the side of the animal. If you have a few moments and enjoy a challenge, draw a letter then add all the descriptions listed above to the letter to make a brand.

If by chance the old-time cowboys ran onto a brand that was blotched, blotted, distorted or otherwise unreadable, they each had pet names for the design often making fun of the mark. Among favorite names were fluidy-mustard, whang-doodle, fool brand or the worst description of all, a fly swatter.

Mexican brands tended to be artistic and flowery often bringing out such descriptions as, "the map of Mexico, a skillet of snakes or a bucket of ropes."

An odd brand in Wyoming was registered as a Revolving H but was unreadable to all but local ranchers. The old cowboys named it "danmfino." When asked to translate the word they answered, "Damned if I know."

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
February 22, 2011 column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.
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This page last modified: February 22, 2011