Thursday, January 13, 2022

"Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch"

Featured exhibit at Steam Pump Ranch 
This month the Oro Valley Historical Society’s featured exhibit at the Pusch House Museum is “Meanwhile Back at the Ranch”. 

The exhibit focuses on cowboys and work typically done at a ranch. Branding was an important component of ranch work as well as protection of the cattle rancher’s livelihood. 

With open range cattle grazing, as was the case in our local area, branding was a reliable way to show ownership when getting the cattle to the market. Branding was also a good way to thwart cattle rustlers (though some were quite adept at changing the brands) as well as a way to regulate and impose taxes.

Dates back to 1500
By no means is branding a modern invention. Branding can be traced to Egyptian wall paintings dated 2,500 years ago that show cattle roundups and branding. When Spaniards came to the New World, they brought livestock including horses and cattle. Hernan Cortes (who defeated the Aztecs in 1521) branded his cattle with three Latin crosses. This is likely the first brand used in the Western Hemisphere. In 1537, the Spanish crown ordered the establishment of brand registration. Each cattle owner had to have a unique brand that was registered in Mexico City. In 1540 it is believed that Coronado brought cattle to Arizona. Father Eusebio Kino (1687) brought many agricultural commodities, including cattle, to our local area when Spain held the territory.

A long tradition in Arizona
Records have been found of brands in Arizona dating from the early 1800’s. Ignacio Antonio Pacheco of Tubac was issued a brand by the King of Spain in 1812. His brand was a “diamond over an inverted flying U”. Though Spain awarded large land grants (through 1820) many ranchers did not stay due to raids by the Native American population and the difficult living conditions in the Southwest and Texas. In 1821 when Mexico gained independence from Spain, they maintained branding issues. In 1848 the Treaty of Guadalupe, Hidalgo ceded Texas and much of the Southwest, including Arizona, to the United States. Tully and Ochoa, a partnership that included ranching, registered the “TO” brand in 1849. In that same year in Pima County, J.L Becrup recorded a brand composed of his initials. These are two of the earliest brands attributed to the newly added territory. Through 1895, the counties in the Arizona territory maintained branding records though there was little monitoring of duplicated brands.

Brand registration started in 1895
In 1895, the Arizona Territorial Legislature established the Live Stock Sanitary Board, following the example of other states. The first brand book for Arizona was published in 1897. Now brand registry is highly regulated and accurate records are maintained. After a brand application is submitted, the brand is open for public review for 30 days in order to get feedback. All owners of range livestock must register a brand. The design must be more than one single letter or number – two or more characters. The brand must be re-registered every five years.

The Oro Valley Historical Society is the proud registered owner of the hanging PZ (Pusch Zellweger) brand. 
The rights to the brand were transferred to us from the Pusch/Zipf family. We also have been granted use (for educational purposes) of the horizontal PZ brand through the generosity of the registered owner.

Visit Steam Pump Ranch to learn more
If you would like to learn more about branding and the cowboy life, stop by the Pusch House Museum at Steam Pump Ranch (10901 No. Oracle Road, Oro Valley) on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and Noon for the self-tour exhibit. Docent guided outdoor walking tours of the Steam Pump Ranch Historical Park take place on the first and third Saturdays from January through April 16. The walking tours are on a first come, first serve basis and take about 45 minutes and begin at 9 a.m. with the last tour leaving at 11:30 a.m. Be aware that walking is on gravel paths and sometimes uneven terrain. Suggested donation for the exhibit and/or outdoor tour is $5. Visit for current information about the Oro Valley Historical Society or our Facebook page, Oro Valley Historical Society. We hope to see you!

Resources for article
  • Tina Zogott, researcher and Teri Colmar editor/Volunteers of the Oro Valley Historical Society
  • Evans, Edna Hoffman, “Arizona Cattle Brands”, Arizona Highways, 37:11 (November 1960), pp. 2-4. 
  • Evans, Edna Hoffman, “Arizona Cattle Brands”, Arizona Highways, 37:11 (November 1960), pp. 2-8.
- - -
Last May, we publish about the brands on the wall on the east side of Oracle near Catalina State Park. You can read that here.