Cattle Branding Layouts
Wood Carving and Wood Burning
By L. S. Irish
Because this summer (2003) has been spent working on Western themes for our Carving Pattern Packages I have come across a wide variety of a favorite Western Folk Art form, the Cattle Brand that Mike and I wanted to share with you. Any of our Western Pattern Packs could be enhanced with the addition of an originally created Branding Mark by you.
Even before mankind learned to write we have had a compulsion to leave our mark those things that we touch. From the earliest cave paintings where the shaman left his hand print on the stone wall in ground ocher to today’s tourists that scratch their initials on monuments, history records man’s markings. We mark everything including places we have been and things that we own. One only has to visit the bathroom stall of any interstate highway gas station to see man’s impulsive need to mark everything he come in contact with in action.
This was very true for the early ranchers of the American West during the mid to late 1800’s. During this era grasslands were open and unfenced, allowing the herds to migrate to new pastures. When the cattle had fattened on the sweet grass the animals were gathered and herded along established trails to the stockyards for sale to the Eastern meat markets. Because of the open ranges cattle herds from different ranches could easily mix. Cattle Trails were well established and several large herds could be found on any trail at the same time.
Branding became economically necessary to insure that each rancher could identify their livestock. Created from welded iron bars brands were often made by a cowhand or wheelwright on the farm then registered with the local government to insure the ranch’s ownership of that branding mark.
Most brands were extremely simple designs created by a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. As time progressed certain styles of letters had names associated with them. An example is a letter that is rested on a half circle would be called a “Rocking” letter as the half circle looked like the rockers of a chair. Letters or numbers that did not sit upright but instead laid on their sides or tilted were called “Lazy” letters. Brands reflected the ranch name so a ++R brand was from the Double Cross R Ranch.
As wood carvers, wood burners, and craftsmen we are no different than those that have come before us. Marking our wood with an identifiable brand can add to the fun of our craft. So we have drawn a set of layout sheets to guide you in the creation of your own special brand. Because branding irons were handmade on the farm they have a rough or crude look to the lettering. As you design your individual brand please keep this aspect in mind. So set your compasses and straight edged rulers aside when creating your pattern.
All patterns are courtesy of Art Designs Studio and for Personal Use Only.