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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
Cowboys, Cattlemen, and Cowpunchers

Heraldry of the Branding Iron

Cowpuncher Evans Coleman once remarked:
"I knew cowhands who could neither read nor write, but who could name any brand, either letters or figures, on a cow."

A brand was the key to ownership in a business where ownership was everything. Many cattlemen, in fact, named their ranches after their brands and held the symbol in as proud esteem as did any knight his crest.

Branding was an ancient practice before the first cow came to America. Some 4000-year-old tomb paintings show Egyptians branding their fat, spotted cattle. Hernando Cortés burned crosses on the hides of the small herd he brought with him to Mexico. The vaqueros passed the custom on to US cowboys, who developed and refined their own calligraphy.

The Cowboy's Cryptic Alphabet

Letters, Numbers
and Variations






On any 19th-Century ranch, even the greenest cowhand quickly mastered the three major elements of the branding alphabet (above). He learned to read the components of a brand in correct order: from left to right, from top to bottom, or from outside to inside. (A "T" inside a diamond translates as Diamond T, not T Diamond.) In time he could pick out any one of hundreds of markings in a milling herd.

Cowpuncher Coleman said:
"A good cowboy could understand the Constitution of the United States were it written with a branding iron on the side of a cow."

Typical Cattle Brands and What They Mean

Cow brands and what they mean

Charles Goodnight's simple and famous JA brand spells out the initials of his partner John Adair. The running curves have a practical purpose - sharp angles tend to blotch and blur the brand.



Rancher J. H. Barwise re-created the two syllables of his last name in symbolic equivalents that combine to form his brand. Read correctly from top to bottom, this puzzle works out as Bar Ys.



A gunslinger turned rancher arrived in the West with nothing but two .45-caliber pistols to his name. Later, when he made good as a cattleman, those two guns were memorialized in his brand.



"A man's a fool to raise cattle," said Texan T.J. Walker, and he took the word for his brand. Fun-loving cowpunchers with running irons would sometimes rope his bulls and change the F to a B.


Charles Goodnight Ranch
An early drawing of Charles Goodnight's ranch.
This was one of the first ranches in the Colorado with an orchard and cornfield.

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- Colorado History In Depth -
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:

| The Cheyenne Migration to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie Treaty |

The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner |
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred Stories |
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge Ceremony |
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics |
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances |

Fort Union
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker, End of Fort Union |

Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase |
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush |

Colorado's Role in the US Civil War
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon |
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R. | Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde, Fort Union |

Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes
| The Western Federation of Miners / State Militia |
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District / End of the Strike |
Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek |
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek District:
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo |

More Colorado History Information
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans, and More |

| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort? |
| Colorado Trivia, Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More

| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads |
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
| Project Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
Lead Gives Alferd Packer's Story More Weight |
| Legendary Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More |
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers |
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April Fools' Day |

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Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
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