Branding is a method of proving ownership or origin of an animal, and may be performed by a hot iron, freezing, acid or any other method that will result in a permanent mark. States may regulate the use of such brands and keep a registry recording brands used and require record keeping of brands by animal owners to avoid duplication of brands or brands that are confusingly alike. The right to use a registered brand may be sold, leased or transferred.
Brand laws also specify where on the horse, cow or other livestock the brands can be placed. Typically, they also specify that the existence of a registered brand on an animal is proof (subject to rebuttal by evidence) that the animal belongs to the person in whose name the brand is registered. Brand laws often provide that sale of any branded animal must be accompanied by a written bill of sale.
The following is an example of a state statute regulating branded animals:
"Any person who, with intent to defraud, marks or brands any unmarked horse, mule, cow, hog, sheep, goat or other domestic animal which is the property of another or alters or defaces the mark or brand of such animal must, on conviction, be punished as if he had stolen it."