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Postcard from the Past: Branding a Maverick

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The cutline for this rare mid-1880’s photograph – shown below – is entitled “Branding a Maverick” and states the “real art of the maverick hunter is properly applying a hot running iron. The horse, too, must know his business and is never beguiled into slackening the noose, while the roper is kindling the fire and perfecting title to his new claim.”

Many outfits got their start in Wyoming by branding a maverick, while other ranches sported several legitimate brands including Swan Land and Cattle Company which registered dozens of brands in the 1885 Brand Book produced by the Wyoming Stock Grower’s Association (WSGA).

A copy of the rare leather-bound 1885 Brand Book was discovered several years ago in the Bob Martin/Dick Perue collection. 

The cover page states, “This fourth edition of the brand book is issued by the WSGA for the use of and, it is hoped, for the benefit of all persons interested.”

One reason to mark cattle with an indelible mark is to prevent theft, and thus, discourage the “branding of a maverick,” according to historic accounts. In the Wyoming Territory, brands were also used to sort vast cattle during the annual roundups on the open range.

The Wyoming Livestock Board Office in Cheyenne notes the first complete list of Wyoming livestock brands was published in the 1899 Brand Book. However, the 1885 Brand Book lists more than 375 outfits with over 1,000 registered brands covering most of the Cowboy State territory.

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