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Assessing reliability of hot branding symbols for identification of horses

J. E. Aurich, P. Wohlsein, M. Wulf, M. Nees, W. Baumgärtner,  M. Becker-Birck, C. Aurich

HOT branding is the traditional method of tagging horses for identification. Branding symbols are used in breeding programmes, disease control, legal disputes, competitions and sales. More recently, the method of microchip identification has been adopted in some countries. However, hot branding is still used in many parts of Europe and around the world, despite opposition from animal welfare groups. The aim of this German study was to investigate the readability of branding symbols and to assess histomorphological changes at the branding site.

The hot branding marks of 248 horses participating in the Berlin-Brandenburg State Equestrian Championships were independently assessed by three equine experts. Each brand was composed of a breed symbol and two digits. The study was conducted in July, when the horses had short summer coats.

The investigators correctly identified breed symbols 90 per cent of the time, and in 84.3 per cent of cases, all three experts correctly identified the symbols. The double-digit numbers, however, were only correctly identified by all …

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