Cattle Rustler's Running Iron ~ A tool of a professional in the West involved in the stealing of branded cattle and altering the brand. In the very early West, cattle rustling was almost accepted as a way to build up one's head of livestock, which is how many a cattle rancher got his start.
Stealing an unbranded calf not following its mother was not even looked upon as rustling. But as the cattle barons decided it was hurting their pocketbooks, cattle rustling began to be seen as a serious crime.
There were two types of branding irons: the stamp iron which included the full brand, and the running iron which had a hooked tip that could be used to change or make any brand. The running iron was a favorite tool of the cattle rustler. Being caught by a vigilante group with a running iron in one's possession could mean certain death by hanging if the law wasn't around.
This one works by unscrewing the iron from the tube handle and then re-screwing it in the other end before heating it to run the brand. It was small and easily concealed. Our Running Iron is 15 in. long when assembled; when put into easy carry it is 8 1/4 in. long. The hooked piece by itself is 8 1/4 in. long, and the holding cylinder is 7 1/4 in. long. The hook at its widest is about 2 in. wide, and the cylinder is about 1/2 in. wide.