The History of Animal ID Tags

Dog with tags
We all know what a dog tag is for. If your dog ever loses its way, there’s that little piece of metal is there to save the day. And if you ever visit a farm, you’ll notice that cattle have a small tag on their ear. Most people don’t give this tag a second thought. What’s the real significance of these animal tags? Why did we start using them? Read below for a quick history on this system.

Dog Tags

The famous jingling sound coming from a dog’s neck has been around for a very long time, and it has a fascinating history. Most dogs used to have just their name written on the tag. Over time, people avoided putting their dog’s name on the tag. One reasons was that it became easy for a thief to steal a dog simply by calling it over. And when dogs were stolen, the thief wouldn’t have to give authorities much proof it was theirs – they would simply say the dog’s name and the dog would respond, which was proof enough that the thief was the “owner.”

To avoid these highly illegal and truly sad acts from happening, people started putting different info, such as a phone number or an address, on the tag. In the last half-decade or so, you could even put a QR code on an ID tag. Or use an ID tag with a microchip installed. As helpful as all of that can be, putting your dog’s name on a tag has its advantages. One popular advantage is that when a lost dog is found, the finder can use the dog’s name to comfort it.
Stanley Iwanski's WWII Dogtag (1942)
Ever since the early days of information getting put on identification tags, the army started using what were basically real “dog tags” as a way to identify anyone in the military. These tags became very popular in World War II. Still today, soldiers wear dog tags. If a soldier is wounded in battle, they can be identified. Back before dog tags were used, soldiers would identify themselves in any way possible – even if it meant putting paper notes on their coats.

Cattle Tags

Cattle
Cattle tags have been around since farmers started to need a way to distinguish their cattle in a herd. Branding used to be the most popular way to do it, and it’s still sometimes the method of choice today. For humane and economic reasons, America has adopted a method of using livestock ear tags. What gets put on the tag differs. It could be as simple as a two to four digit number that makes the sales process easier. Sometimes your auction name can be customized on the back. Or if the cattle is already at home on a farm, the tag could include its gender, date of birth, and its parents. Ankle tags and neck tags are also used on cows, while poultry commonly have leg and wing bands.

Lisa Podwirny is the owner of Ketchum Mfg. Connect with her on !

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