Cattle Brands in Harris County, Texas

As much as I would hate to encourage the stereotypical view of Texans as horseback-riding, cattle-roping hicks from the south, the fact is that we have both: horses and cattle. In fact, cattle is a growing industry in many parts of Texas, including Harris County. Despite the growing Houston metro and suburban area, there is still plenty of room for pastures and cattle.

Cattle brands play an integral role in identifying cattle to their owners in Texas. This practice is “as old as the hills” and, until the idea to tattoo animals for identification, was the only way for owners to protect their animals from theft. Ancient Egyptian tombs and artifacts depict crude drawings of herds and cattle branding and it is thought that in Biblical times, Jacob branded his stock. Spaniards brought branding to America, and since then little has changed in the evolution of the cattle brand.

One thing that has made cattle brands more easily identifiable is the practice of registering brands to their owners. When a new ranch or farm comes up with a brand, he or she should register it in the state and county of their property. This way, any animal that turns up with a particular brand can almost immediately be traced back to its owner.

Many people think that cattle brands are always letters or combinations of letters, but this is not so. Any symbol that can be drawn and created into a branding iron can be labeled a brand, and some of the most historically notable brands are not letters at all, but symbols meaningful to their owners.

Famous cattle brands have included keys, rocking chairs, pitchforks, bridles, spurs, anvils, knives and ribbons. Many of them have names that are associated with the symbols themselves, such as “Buzzard on a Rail”; “Saddle Pockets”; “Fish Tail”; and “QuiÃ?©n Sabe”.

Branding Terminology

In the cattle branding world, leaning letters and characters are called “tumblers”; horizontal symbols are “lazy”; and “Flying T’s” are any cattle brand that comes with curvy strokes or flying “wings” across the top.

If you add double lines to the bottom of a brand, it is “walking”; if straight lines turn curvy, then the brand is considered “running”. An open triangle is considered a “rafter” and a quarter-circle brand is thought to be “rocking.” Two characters in one brand can be connected to one another by a line, making them “chained”, and double wavy lines to either side of a symbol makes it “swimming”.

Registering Your Brand

Brands must be re-registered every ten years because once a farm or ranch is no longer in service, or an owner of a brand dies, the cattle brand becomes available again.

Cattle brands are registered with your county clerk, and there is a filing fee that is charged for each brand or re-registration.

One interesting point is that two ranchers can have identical brands, but have them registered in different locations. For example, a fish with double wavy lines to each side could be referred to as the “Running Fish”. One rancher registers it on the hip just below the tail, while the other rancher registers it on the neck. You must draw the brand on the cattle brand registration form (as shown in the picture) so that the brand is registered to you in that location.

In Harris County, the branding fee is currently $19 + $4.00 for each individual page with identifying marks.

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