Before the invention of barbed wire cattle roamed freely over the open range. It was therefore necessary for the owner to burn an identifying mark on the hides of his livestock. This was done with a hot branding iron. Brands were formed from numbers, letters and symbols. These brands were then registered in the official county brand book. Unbranded cattle were known as mavericks. It was generally accepted that a cowboy who found a maverick on his land had the right to mark it with his own brand.