Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The mysterious case of the missing freeze brands

Ever since I adopted George and Alan from the Bureau of Land Management's Wild Horse and Burro program in October 2007, something has been amiss.

Upon capture, all BLM animals are supposed to be freeze-branded with a registration number on the left side of their neck. When I brought George and Alan home, I looked and looked, but they were brandless.

A freeze brand is a permanent ID that serves as a return address for lost or stolen livestock. Unlike a hot branding iron, which burns the animal, freeze branding is allegedly painless. The branding iron is dipped in liquid nitrogen, making it intensely cold, and placed on the animal's neck for 15 - 20 seconds. The cold branding iron kills the pigment-producing cells, so the hair under the brand grows back white.

The BLM's freeze brands are based on the International Alpha Angle System, which incorporates a series of angles and alpha-symbols that cannot be altered.

All the mustangs at the BLM auction I attended a few months ago had freeze brands.

According to George's and Alan's registration papers, if they had freeze brands, they would look like this:
I think these freeze brands are pretty cool and frankly was a little bummed that George and Alan didn't have theirs. Were they both so clever when they were captured two and half years ago that they escaped the branding chute? I can easily picture them cutting out and running to the back of the line over and over again.

But a few weeks ago, as if by magic, a few white hairs appeared on George's neck. Then a few more. Was I imagining things, or was a freeze brand finally starting to appear? I gave it a few more days, then became convinced that I was seeing a pattern of white hairs. Then the same thing happened on Alan's neck.

I decided to pull out the clippers and get to the bottom of this mystery. Fearless George stood bravely while I shaved off the hair on his neck for the big reveal.

Not-so-fearless Alan wasn't ready for the clippers, so I did the best I could with a pair of scissors. As the white hairs grow out, his brand should get easier to read.

If George or Alan ever become lost, stolen, or otherwise separated from the 7MSN, their brands will prove that they are registered to me. Or is it the other way around? I've always wanted a little tattoo...


  1. How does this work with a grey or white animal?

  2. I have 4 tattoos. I suppose they'd help Mr. Fry find me if I got lost.

  3. I didn't realize that they branded animals like that, but how cool ... you never know what could happen. Guess it's like micro-chipping a dog!

    I'm glad you found their brands. Wouldn't it be neat to combine their brands, somehow, and have that tattooed on your ankle.

  4. Okay, if you ever get a tattoo, you have to get George and Alan's brand. On your wrist. It would be like joining a burro biker gang.

  5. Nice! I've always loved the BLM brands -- they look like some ancient code.

    You could a tattoo of get two burros on..well, I suppose whatever spot George and Alan pick out..

  6. Thanks for explaining the difference to me re: the brands. Forgive me for saying, but I think branding is barbaric. I hope the cold brands are truly painless.

    I was thinking the same thing: Those would make cool pun intended. ;o)

  7. Being kind of a language nut, I'm definitely going to have to do some googling on this, and find out who invented this cryptic visual code - very interesting indeed. If you wrote it on some odd piece of metal and told me it was from Area 51, I'd believe you!

  8. Burro biker gang, lmao! Oh my... I'm glad they ARE there, hard to see under all that fur. I say do it, get the tat!!

  9. Very cool! Learned something new today.

  10. If you get it tattooed...get it done in white.

  11. I love brands too....and would think it so kewl to find a big horse buddy someday that has one. It's fun to see the local brands on the bottom of each page of my Corona calendar that hangs in the kitchen....reminding where I am supposed to be living right now!

  12. Who knoew what was under all that fuzz!