Tell Me More About Cattle Brands

A few months ago on Instagram I shared a notebook cover I made that had a brand on it.

leather notebook cover with brand in the leather

Sadly, I was having issues with my sewing machine and the stitching did not turn out great. Despite that, I love how the brand works with the design of the notebook cover.

leather notebook cover with brand in the leather

I've also made a tote that incorporates a brand, making it a one-of-kind bag.

leather tote with brand in the leather

I love finding brands in the leather I work with, but I know you might have some questions about them.

Brands are made when a hot metal branding iron is pressed to a calf's side, which heals and leaves a scar that can be easily seen. A freezing iron with liquid nitrogen is also used, but most commonly on horses. These brands kill the pigment of the hair and the hair will grow in white, making the brand easily visible.

While branding may seem cruel, cattle have thick skins and it doesn't hurt much. And it provides a permanent way of identifying which herd a cow belongs to. In fact, some states mandate that all cattle be branded for identification purposes. 

piece of dark gray leather with brand in the leather

It's easy to prove or disprove cattle rustling charges (yep, there's still cattle thieves, even today) when you can easily see the brands of the cattle in question. Ear tags can be removed and replaced, but not brands.

If cattle are sold, a new brand may be added for identification. As a result, some hides may end up with multiple brands.

piece of light gray leather with brand in the leather

When hides are tanned, the brands become a part of that side of leather. Depending on where the animal was branded (the shoulder, stomach, hind end, etc), the brand may be on the edge of the hide or towards the middle.

This also means that you won't find a brand on every piece of leather you work with.

piece of green leather with brand in the leather

If you're interested in learning more about the practical purposes of brands, a cattle rancher I follow on Instagram recently had some cattle stolen, and she shared in her stories why brands are important and how it helps find stolen cattle. If you check her highlights, she has one titled "Branding" where she discusses why it's so important. Link to her profile here.

piece of dark blue leather with brand in the leather

Have you ever found a brand on a piece of leather or an item made from leather?


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