Utah Department of Agriculture and Food

The Importance of Branding Your Horse


By: Cody James, Brand Bureau Chief 

Thousands of horses are stolen each year in America and the main reason is these animals are not branded.  It's also fairly easy to steal a horse. Horses are often kept in fields and barns that are a considerable distance from the owner or trainer.  Horses are often found in small paddocks along country lanes in the country. Horses are rarely kept behind locked gates. It does not take much to catch a broke horse and load it onto a trailer. Once stolen, there are several ways to get the horse into the market or to slaughter plants without meeting the regulations or having the horse checked to see if it was stolen.

Without exact information pertaining to the identification of the horse, it's nearly impossible for officials to find and return the horse. You may also be expected to provide proof of ownership on the horse.
The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Livestock Inspection Bureau recommend horse owners obtain a registered brand and freeze brand their horses. Hot branding is a well established and useful technique of permanently marking livestock but it is not as evident as a freeze brand. Brands can be obtained from the Utah Livestock Brand Bureau (801) 538-7137. The cost of a brand is $75.00, a small fee to pay for the protection it offers from theft.

Freeze brands on horses are easily detected, meaning that someone could spot the horse and notify the authorities. Freeze brands can be identified from a half mile away with a good pair of binoculars or while driving down the road.

Branding also gives added security in that all livestock sold at public auctions, going into feedlots and packing plants or transported out of state are inspected by brand inspectors. If the horse has been reported stolen and is branded the brand inspectors will identify it as stolen and seize the horse prior to the horse being offered for sale.

Many horse owners do not realize the protection that branding affords them when a horse is branded with a registered brand. Every time the horse is brand inspected and the person who has possession of the horse is not the registered brand owner that person must produce paperwork proving ownership back to the registered brand owner. Also when the horse is identifiable by a cbrand a permanent record is kept by the brand inspector thus, creating a permanent record.

Micro-chips and electronic identification have surfaced in recent years as a tool to positively identify a horse.  An electronic implant is not visible to the naked eye and even with the scanner one must have close access to the animal.  People need to realize that brands are not applied to enable an owner to identifying their horse, it is applied so others can identify the horse. If a horse is stolen a missing livestock bulletin is sent out to law enforcement agencies and surrounding states.  If the horse is branded, it gives people something specific to look for.  The ultimate safeguard would be a freeze branded horse along with the electronic implant. The brand makes it possible to find the stolen animal and the implant would assist in the identification saving the owner the trouble of traveling to where the animal is located.

Livestock owners must be aware that all brands applied to livestock must be registered with the State of Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. It is illegal to design and apply a brand without properly registering it.

For more information about livestock branding visit our Brand Bureau Web page.