been used to mark livestock ownership long before Texans started driving cattle
north to make their fortunes. Egyptians
branded oxen with hieroglyphics, ancient Greeks and Romans marked livestock
with a hot iron, and Hernando Cortez introduced branding from Spain to the New
World in 1541.
And to this day, the brand is
still proof of livestock ownership in Texas.
Of course, the idea here came
from open ranges where cattle herds might mix somewhere between Plano and the Red
River, so brands turned out to be an easy way on horseback to separate the
Rocking T from Lazy S Ranch stock. Rustlers would try to alter certain brands
if they could to sell on the market without getting sideways with the law, but
for the most part in this neck of the woods – range, that is – Collin County
cattle raisers used some pretty standard, easy-to-read brands.
In Collin County’s old brand
book, we found some stock raisers even had
registered marks for their turkeys, as those birds were known to roam about a
bit, too. But mostly, of course, the trade was cattle, and they also notched
ears in specific locations and had to specify where their brands were located
(right hip, left hip, etc.).
– that is, the uninitiated -- reading a brand can be tricky, but there are a
few guidelines that can help make the hieroglyphics of branding easier to read.
Here’s a crash course in callin’ a brand. Special thanks go out to Lee
Raine’s Cowboy Showcase, and
Larry Gray of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers
Association for their sage advice and interpretation
of these old west marks.
For starters, brands
are composed of capital letters of the alphabet, numerals, pictures, and
characters such as a slash /, circle O, half-circle ,
cross +, _bar, etc., with many twists and turns in
between. There are a few generally accepted rules for reading brands:
- Read from the left
to the right as ML (M L).
- Read from the
top to the bottom as (bar
- When the
brand is enclosed, it is read from the outside to the inside as(circle S).
Still, not all cattle folk agree
on every brand calling method, but here are some other standards:
- If a letter or symbol is made
backwards from its normal position, it's read as a “reverse F” or whatever
other letter it might be.
- A letter partially over on its face
or back is said to be “tumbling.”
- If a letter lies horizontally on its
face or back, it is called “lazy.”
- An upside down,
backwards letter is sometimes called “crazy.”
- Letters with a curving flare at the
top and rounded angles are called “running.”
- Adding a dash to the left and one to
the right at the top, you have a "flying" letter.
- Add legs and it becomes a “walking”
- Letters or symbols formed together
are called “connected,” except when one is below the other, then the lower
symbol is said to be “swinging.”
- Triangles were frequently used in
late 19th-century brands, and an open triangle was a
Letters can be
used singly, joined, or in combinations.
They can be upright, XIT ; lying down or "lazy," (lazy S);
connected ( V B connected), (V B combined);
reversed, (reverse B); or hanging (V hanging S).
numbers are used in the same way as the letters.
Picture brands are usually used alone, for example (ladder) or
Now that’s the
ready to “call” a brand?
Here’s a list
of Collin County livestock brands registered here in the latter half of the 19th
century through the 1930’s. We’ll start out easy, and work our way up to the
harder ones. We’ll post a link to the answers at the bottom of this page, but
no peekin,’ folks.
Part I: Common Brands. These should be a walk
on the range.
Part II: Sometimes a symbol is all you need, and
“X” really does mark the spot.
Part III: If you put these together correctly,
you would do well out on the range. Keep in mind, though, most owners of these
brands aren’t around to confirm our experts’ interpretations of their marks.
That means some of these could be open to interpretation or another meaning.
Well, that just about does it.
If you want to view more brands stored on the County Clerk’s new online brand
registration page, go here. There are more than
350 active brands in Collin County right now. See you on down the trail.
See the Answers