Hot branding now banned in Germany

Calecto V
Danish Warmblood stallion Calecto V has a brand on his left hindquarter. The practice of hot branding has been banned in Denmark, and now in Germany as well. Photo: Leslie Potter

After a long, contentious debate between animal welfare groups and breed associations in Germany, the practice of hot branding horses for identification is now illegal in that country. The Animal Welfare Act has been amended to ban hot branding according to an item on New Zealand-based website,

Horses in the European Union are required to have permanent identification. The preferred method is microchipping, but brands have traditionally been used. Each warmblood breed has its own symbol, and the brands on a horse’s haunches identify the horse’s breed. German-based registries, namely the Trakehner, Holsteiner and Hanoverian associations, oppose the ban.

Germany joins Denmark, Scotland and the Netherlands, which have already banned hot branding. The ban seems a logical progression in Germany, a country with a ban on ear cropping and tail docking of dogs is illegal and where trimming a horse’s whiskers is banned.

In the United States, branding was traditionally used by ranchers in the west to identify their stock when cattle were left to graze in open land. Hot branding is legal in the U.S. and is still done on horses on some ranches. However, freeze branding is a more common method, most notably seen on the crests of all BLM Mustangs. Freeze branding also used to be common on Arabians and half-Arabians and is sometimes done with Standardbreds. Freeze branding is more expensive and can take longer than traditional hot branding, but is generally accepted as much less painful to the animal.

Microchipping is becoming a more popular option for identification, but critics point out that since the microchip isn’t visible, it doesn’t serve as a theft deterrent the way that a brand does.

With a ban on hot branding now in place in several of the largest warmblood-producing countries, the practice may soon be a relic of the past.

Read more on horse identification >>


  1. I heard microchip’s were as stressful as hot branding, can’t image how???? Dogs get microchips all the time, doesn’t seem to bother them. If horse slaughter does start up again in the US, get your horse branded/chipped! Horse stealing will be on the rise again, unwanted/neglected horse numbers will stay the same.

  2. I agree with Ellen, freeze branding is better. And I’m not sure why micro-chipping on horses isn’t done.


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