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California Brand History

Brand History Branding has been around for thousands of years. There is Biblical evidence that Jacob, the great herdsman, branded his stock. Egyptians have shown ancient brands on tombs and drawings of the actual work of branding.

Introduction of cattle by the Spaniards lead to the development of the cattle industry of the Southwest and the eventual spread of the great herds to California in the days of the Missions. Hernando Cortez brought the first branding irons to the New World; Cortez’s brand design was three crosses representing Christian the Trinity. The middle cross was larger than the two crosses on either side.

The California Hide and Brand Law was first sponsored in 1915 by the state’s cattlemen, but as the proposed legislation made no provision for revenue necessary for its enforcement, the 1915 Legislature would not act upon it. The sponsors were advised that before it could become law, it would be necessary for them to provide revenues for its administration.

With this provision in mind, the Hide and Brand Law sponsored by the cattlemen of California was approved as Chapter 678, of the 1917 Legislature on May 28, 1917, and it became effective July 27, 1917. For two years, it was administered by a board know as the Cattle Protection Board.

In 1918 the board issued a list of “Cattle Brands and Licensed Slaughterers” as of December 31, 1918, in compliance with “An act to create a Cattle Protection Board, to define its powers and duties, to protect the breeders and growers of cattle from theft, to provide for the registration of cattle brands and the licensing of cattle slaughters and sellers of the meat thereof, to provide for inspection of cattle and cattle hides for brands and marks, to provide for the collection for license and cattle protection fund, and to provide penalties for violations.”

The law provided for establishing branding districts, registering cattle brands, licensing cattle slaughterers and the inspection of all cattle for shipment or slaughter, and the inspection of hides.

The first law did not apply to registered purebred cattle or purebred cattle which could be identified as being entitled to be registered, nor did it apply to the dressed carcasses of veal with unmarked or unbranded hides, nor did it apply to cows used for dairy purposes. Later all bovine animals were included in its provisions.

In 1919, the Cattle Protection Board was abolished and Cattle Protection Service became a part of the Department of Food & Agriculture on July 27, 1919.

In 1929, the law was revised to include a new section to the code providing for the licensing of cattle dealers who transported cattle they bought for sale or slaughter in their own conveyances. Due to the increased expense of administering this section, the cattle Protection Service received an appropriation of $15,000 from the General Fund. This is the only appropriation the Bureau has ever received from the General Fund.

In 1935, the registration of horse, mule, burro and sheep brands and the inspection of horses offered for slaughter were added to the duties of the Cattle Protection Service.

In 1936, the name of the Cattle Protection Service was changed to the Livestock Identification Service. In 1940, the Bureau of Livestock Identification was established. We have been protecting California’s Cattle Industry ever since.


From the “California Brand Book, 2010” found on this link.

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