Branding cattle may evoke images of the old west a century ago, but it’s a still-active part of agriculture in the North Bay, with a lengthy history here, too.
Just as they were a century again, brands are used today to identify the legal owners of not just cattle, but horses, mules, burros, sheep and swine.
Ernie Ongaro (right) grew up on his family’s ranch along San Anselmo Creek, and began helping with the livestock branding at the age of 10. These days, he lives and raises beef cattle southwest of Sebastopol. Over the years he’s seen many familiar local brands go inactive (but his book includes both active and inactive brands from Marin and Sonoma counties). He’s also seen the shady practice of “overbranding” employed all the way into the present day.
You can see an array of sample brands below.