The Lost Art of Arbitrary Brands

Lost Art of the West

The other day I had a good visit with Bob Miller from the B.C. Brands office – officially known as Ownership Identification, Inc., (OII). We started comparing interesting brands we’ve seen over the years, now known as “arbitrary” brands, mainly because they can’t be reproduced by a computer keyboard.

I understand why there is a need to standardize how brands are recorded, I really do. Some designs don’t follow the rules of common sense. (For example, one of my ancestors had registered what I consider the perfect ‘blotch’ brand – M inside a square box. Needless to say, he dropped it.)

The days of registering an arbitrary brand are long, long gone. But in my point of view, in losing the arbitrary brands we’ve lost a major contribution to the unique art of the West.

When you come across an animal branded with an arbitrary brand, please take a photo and send it to me at and one day in the near future I’ll put together a photo essay paying homage to the last of the arbitrary brands here in Canadian Cowboy Country.