Horses have always been an integral part of the protection of national parks. In the very early days, horses were purchased for the use of the game wardens of Rocky Mountains Park, Banff. As a result of acquiring horses, Chief Fire and Game Warden Howard Sibbald recognized the need to register a horse brand to mark the Dominion of Canada’s ownership of these horses.
On October 24, 1913 Howard Sibbald of Rocky Mountains Park, Banff signed a letter addressed to the Brand Recorder at Medicine Hat, Alberta suggesting an appropriate horse brand. He asked that the brand be registered for either the right or left shoulder, but “left” was preferable, under the name of Dominion Parks Branch, Department of the Interior, Banff. He enclosed a sum of $1.00 in payment of the registration fee for this horse brand. H.E. Sibbald’s design was a front view of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep head. Sibbald’s letter was received by the Recorder of Brands on October 27th. The suggested brand design was accepted and became the official brand for use on the left shoulder of the Rocky Mountains Park horses on October 30, 1913.
On October 22, 1915, The Chief Superintendent of Dominion Parks, Mr. Bernard-Harvey, wrote a letter to James Wilson, Recorder of Brands, requesting permission to use the Sheep’s Head brand on the horses owned by the Department of the Interior not only at Banff Park, but at Jasper Park, Elk Island Park, Buffalo Park, and Waterton Lakes Park in the province of Alberta. The response was “that there is no reason why you should not use the Sheep’s Head Brand in all of your parks the same as the Indian Department does with its brand. Brands are valid in any part of Alberta.”
Over the past 100 years this brand has been visible on the left shoulder of hundreds of federal government owned national parks’ horses. The brand was applied by both hot iron branding and by freeze branding over the past century. One cannot help but feel a sense of pride in the brand, knowing that for 100 years it has represented the continuous guardianship of our national parks.
For decades in Alberta, brands were held by the brand holder for a period of 4 years. Upon expiry at the end of the 4th year, the brand needed to be renewed by application from the brand holder accompanied by a fee of $1.00. It seems there was a mistake made by the Recorder of Brands in the 1958 brand book which listed the brand as “domestic bull’s head” rather than the “Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram’s head.” This resulted in the Recorder of Brands amending the error for subsequent brand books. D.B. Coombs, Supt. Banff supplied the Recorder of Brands with five copies of the full scale pattern design of the “Rocky Mountain Bighorn Ram’s head” brand.
In 1983 Brand Recorder B.L. Ettinger brought to the attention of Parks Canada that the brand had not been renewed as required by Alberta Agriculture, and he gave a renewal deadline of March 31, 1983 otherwise the brand would not be re-issued as it is an arbitrary brand; a design that cannot be classified. (NB By this time, arbitrary brands were no longer permitted).
The Bighorn Sheep’s Head brand has been registered under several different federal departments over the past 100 years.
Thank you to Livestock Identification Services Ltd. For their kind assistance in researching the history of the Bighorn Sheep’s Head brand.