Branding was the way the owner of the cattle could be identified. The brand, which took for form of a symbol or letters, was produced by a hot iron forged with the appropriate brand and then burned onto the animal’s flesh. The brand design was registered with the county prior to branding the owner’s cattle.
The location of the brand was usually on the left hind and fore quarters. Cattle were generally branded when they were young.
The First Cattle in America
The Spanish conquistador, Hernando Cortes, brought the first cattle to the New World in the 16th century, around 1540. The brand Cortes used was three crosses.
The term “maverick” means an adult animal that is not branded. This word was derived back in the 1840s when a Texas cattle rancher named Sam Maverick “refused to brand his herd.” His cattle roamed about the range without a brand, and he soon discovered that the neighboring ranches claimed the cattle as their own.
Ranchers were quick to brand their cattle for fear of losing them should they stray from the herd. Rustlers were particularly adept at altering a brand to cover up their rustling.
The Cattle States Were…
Western & Southwestern States: Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.
Other Cattle Ranching States: Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming.