When did the practice of branding livestock begin in the U.S.?
Branding of livestock dates back to the Egyptians circa 2700 B.C. It spread to Europe in the Middle Ages and was introduced by the Spanish and later Mexican vaqueros in what is today the southwestern United States.
The open ranges made it essential for ranchers to have a brand that identified their cows during a roundup where cattle from many ranches were gathered.
Ironically, the first brands were not found on livestock but on the Aztec slaves of Spanish conquistadors. The slaves were branded on their cheeks with the letter “G,” for guerra (prisoner of war). Since many of these slaves were put to work herding cattle, branding soon moved from man to beast.