Tonight, when I left the house, the scent of burned hair and flesh was in the air. Branding. My neighbor branded calves yesterday or today. I abhor the practice of placing a red-hot iron on an animal, although I suppose this doesn't make me a very good cattlewoman.
Ancient Egyptians used the practice of burning the flesh to mark ownership, and so did the
Romans—to brand human slaves.
The tradition of branding livestock in historical England meant that commoners could run their cattle with the Lord of the Manor’s mark upon them. Most European nations followed the practice, including Spain. This tradition spread to Mexico and the United States. A unique brand meant that cattle owned by multiple owners could then graze freely together on open range.
Branding irons are made out of metal and the design is unique to the ranch in which it belongs. They can be heated with fire, electricity or propane. There is also freeze branding, used on the American Mustang, among other things.
Brands are used primarily on cattle, although horses and even hunting dogs carry the scars of the red-hot irons. Other uses are for woodworking, leatherwork and steaks.