Stacey Kayne: The Cowboy Alphabet


brandA cattle brand is much like a rancher’s coat of arms, a symbol of pride and ownership. Quite often a rancher named his ranch after his brand–the Flying M, Double D, Lazy K.

Brands combine letters, numerals and symbols and are read just like a book, from top to bottom, left to right. It has a been said that cowhands who could neither read nor write were fluent in the Branding Alphabet–after all, misreading a brand in the old west could end with a short drop from a tall tree. brandg

The practice of branding livestock has been around for thousands of years, dating back to 2,000 BC. In the days of the great cattle drives and open ranging, cattle brands were serious business, their use and mis-use resulting in great profits, losses and untimely deaths. Registering brands started in Texas in 1832, the first belonging to Richard Chisholm. Recording brands with the county clerk became standard practice and by the cattle boom of the 1870’s a brand had to be registered to prove ownership—by law any unregistered brands couldn’t hold claim to livestock.  I read somewhere that if the constitution were written in cattle brands, every cowboy could recite it line for line 😉

Below are some samples of registered brands to give examples of the top-to-bottom, left-to-right reading.


Rustlers sometimes used what was called a running brand, that would slightly alter a brand already singed into an animal’s hide–perhaps changing the Rocking R to a Circle R by completing the circle.


I started researching cattle brands for my upcoming book MOUNTAIN WILD.  My heroine embroiders the hero’s brand onto a dish towel, which is an L hanging  a lazy J (J on it’s side) for the Lazy J Ranch. In this book, Garret Daines is having a devil of a time with rustlers, and when one of his branding irons is stolen after an attack, he doesn’t take the theft lightly.  Setting up another rancher as a rustler by the ill-use of his brand was another practice used by those badmen of the old west.



And speaking of brands, the cover for MOUNTAIN WILD has arrived! (posted below)  As you can see, my brand is still those hunky cowboys.

If you’ve wondered about the science of branding our romance novels,  Harlequin Art Director, Alana Ruoso, was interviewed this month at Cover Cafe.  They’ve posted a fantastic article, which includes a behind the scenes look at the cover photo shoot for MAVERICK WILD–my first hunky cowboy cover.  Check it out at: .  The article gave me a whole new appreciation for the work that goes into creating a cover.

 Click on a cover to pre-order my upcoming releases.


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25 thoughts on “Stacey Kayne: The Cowboy Alphabet”

  1. OMG Stacey-LOVE LOVE the cover!!!!!!!! I can not wait to get my hands on a copy!

    Thanks for posting that link too-Im going to go check it out…sounds interesting!

    Now-about the branding-I can not even being to imagine how much work it was to brand!

    I am soooo loving your way of branding 😉

  2. Hi Stacey,
    Both your covers are gorgeous! What would western authors do without those pesky rustlers? I’ve even used them in my modern day ranch stories. Great info and pics!

  3. I’m just back from following the link, very interesting information!

    I may have mentioned this before, but it bears
    repeating: you have the best luck with covers!
    Every one of them has been absolutely great!

    Pat Cochran

  4. You know, the more I see your new cover the more I am thinking it is great. It does fit the fantastic story inside the hero hunk cover. Can’t wait to see it on a quilt…. That one is going to be a fun quilt to make for you, Miz Kayne!

    I have always thought how interesting brands are and how do they come up with the original designs. Very creative minds those cowboys…

  5. Hi Pam—Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the link. I had no idea so much went into constructing those covers–nor did I realize they’d done a cover shoot for my book–it was such fun to see the whole process and their thoughts behind it 🙂

  6. Hi Colleen! Thank you for stopping in 🙂

    Ya know, Paisley, I never thought about the creativity of cowboys with coming up with those brands–what a great angle. Bet they had clever wives 😉 No fair teasing me with talks of a quilt!! How many covers does it take again?? 24?? Maybe I could get a mini-quilt *G*

  7. I agree you do get awesome covers!
    We have a brand T upside down hanging Y. It was my father-in-law’s. We bought the registration from him to use on our cattle. I hate branding. The smell of burning hair and hide makes me nauseous but I’m the squeeze chute handler so I’m there in the smoke.

    Good post.

  8. Followed the link. Interesting. Sounds like they have a tough job. Bride of Shadow Canyon is my favorite cover. Sorry, I don’t go for the macho six pack style. Our state library summer reading program 2 years ago was about cowboys and the west. Part of my program was to talk about branding and the reason for it. I had my son, a blacksmith, make a couple of branding irons for me. He came over and set up his portable forge. We had a saw horse steer with a slot to slip in a block of wood. Each child got to brand their steer 2 times and take the branded block of wood home. Not the real thing, but at least they got the idea.

  9. =K,two bar K, was the brand for my Mom’s family for years, and the guys all had their own that they ran with from that form as they got their own stock. I got my ex-husband a steak branding iron with his brand on it for Christmas one year. It was a huge hit. All his friends wanted one so that they could brand their steaks as they had them on the grill. What a bunch of little boys at heart…LOL

  10. Love the covers Stacey, thanks for all the info on branding cows. I didn’t know about these things so I learned something today.

  11. I agree, Patricia. I hadn’t realized they did actual cover shots for the photos.

    What a neat program and keepsake for those students!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. Too funny about them being little boys at heart, Amy 😉 I’ve seen those steak brands…never really understood the appeal *LOL*

    Thank you for sharing!!

  13. I saw the painting (The Cowboy’s Alphabet) in a convenience store in Sulphur, OK, I thought from the moment I laid eyes on it that it was a superb painting, and wanted a numbered copy of it, if attainable. If you could tell me how to get one I would be, beholden forever.
    Linda S. Emmord

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