12 Vintage Pictures of Cattle Branding

The practice of cattle branding has been around since ancient Egypt, but it was the American cowboy that would make it famous.

Coming over from Spain, brands and branding are the stuff of Old West legend and the topic of countless western films. In the time before barbed wire fences criss-crossed the plains, brands were used to distinguish different ranchers’ cattle. Though the West has long been closed, branding is still a popular way of marking livestock to easily identify lost or stolen animals. However, branding is not universally favored and does hold a place on the ASPCA’s Farm Animal Cruelty Glossary. Recently other forms of marking cattle have been used from RFID tagging to tattoos and even branding with liquid nitrogen.

We took a look through the Library of Congress for some interesting pictures of cattle branding past.


Cattle branding in Texas, circa 1980.


Branding cattle, circa 1891.


A classic three circle roundup, Custer National Forest, Montana, circa 1939.


Branding a young calf, Paradise Valley, Nevada, circa 1980.


Branding a heifer, Cerri (Wallace) Ranch, circa 1978.


Branding irons heating up in a smouldering fire, Cerri (Wallace) Ranch, circa 1979.


Two at a time, Grayson Ranch, Nevada, circa 1978.


A branding pen on a cattle ranch near Marfa, Texas, circa 1939.


Branded calf, Ninety-Six Ranch, Paradise Valley Nevada, circa 1979.


Pulling a calf from the herd at the Quarter Circle U Ranch roundup, Montana, circa 1939


Branding a calf, Quarter Circle U roundup, Montana, circa 1939.

12 Vintage Pictures of Cattle Branding