While mostly associated with cowboys and the west, the practice predates the era by a considerable margin, as there are references to a similar practice as far back as the Roman Empire, as livestock needed to be moved constantly due to war plans and the constant fear of raiders.
Keep in mind that this idea was made long before the invention of modern microchips and scannable tags came around to figure out whose livestock officially belonged to who. And most are thankful for that, as very few both then and now would be brave enough to face a pissed-off bull with the job of putting a hot stick on its rear for a few seconds. As a result of this improved technology, iron branding has been mostly phased out of modern farming practices.
In media, however, an iron branding is a very common version of both torture and slapstick humor, the latter usually being applied to the butt, sometimes with the added side effect of a Rump Roast.
- Part of the efforts to tame the eponymous equine from Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron include tying him to a post and branding him.
- Jackass: Number Two: One of the stunts has Bam Margera take a heated penis-shaped iron to the rear for a few seconds. Later, the crew would show the brand to Bam's parents.
- In Reform School Girls, Charlie uses a wire hanger heated with a cigarette lighter to brand a circle on Lisa's butt cheek. This is the mark Charlie places on all of the girls in her gang/harem. Lisa regards it as a Mark of Shame and it is one of the events that drives her towards her Despair Event Horizon.
- In Julia X, The Stranger brands an 'X' on to Julia's butt cheek.
- The music video for the Ren & Stimpy song "Cat Hairballs" Stimpy is being forced to lick up and hwarf hairballs onto a conveyor belt, which then get branded with a "Grade A" seal by Ren. Eventually Stimpy runs out of places to lick and, exhausted from all the hwarfing, passes out on the conveyor belt and the gets violently stamped on the ass. The music video then irises out on an unconscious Stimpy's butt, with the words "Grade A" written across the butt cheeks.
- Invoked with women's sweatpants and short shorts that have writing across the butt.
- This practice likely inspired the butt-symbols (now called "cutie marks") of the My Little Pony toy line.
- Family Guy:
- In "Boys Do Cry", Peter brands a cow — specifically, the BDSM-obsessed cow from "Jungle Love". He even tells Peter to wait a second to puts a ball gag over his mouth.
- In "Dial Meg for Murder", Peter trains himself for the rodeo by hogtying Meg and branding her, but it turns out Mayor West beat him to it.
- Pixie, Dixie and Mr. Jinks: In "Cousin Tex", the meeces' Texas cousin tries to brand Mr. Jinks. The cat tries trapping them under a wooden box, but Tex uses the hot iron to burn through it and brand Jinks while he sits on it.
Jinks: Smells like, you know, somebody's roasting an overcoat. YEEEOOOOWW!!!
- The Ren & Stimpy Show: In "The Cat That Laid the Golden Hairball", Stimpy, over worked and completely licked clean of hair, passes out on the conveyor belt and gets stamped on the ass by Ren. Which leaves a "Grade A" seal of approval branded into Stimpy's butt cheeks.
- Rocko's Modern Life: In "The Good, the Bad, and the Wallaby", Heffer tries to join the cattle on the ranch, but is rejected for not having a brand mark, so he fools them by drawing a fake mark on his butt.