DĀḠ (Av. daxša-, Bal. daḵta), brand, a mark made by touching the body of an animal or human being with a heated iron implement or, by extension, a lasting mark of any kind (e.g., Hedāyat, s.v.; Nafīsī, s.v.; cf. Jorfādaqānī, p. 9). As an adjective dāḡ means very hot, particularly with reference to water and metal. The abundance of compounds like dāḡ zadan (to brand), dāḡī (branding iron), dāḡsāz (brand maker), dāḡneh or dāḡgar (brander), dāḡgāh (site where branding takes place) indicates that branding was a widespread practice for various purposes, notably identifying ownership of animals, punishing criminals, and medical and veterinary purposes.

Branding of animals for identification. Although definite information about the origin of the practice of identifying animals by means of brands is lacking, it may be surmised that, as tribes of a pastoral nation became independent, each chose an emblem to distin­guish its flocks and beasts from those of other tribes. According to Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, “The tamḡā was a special emblem or mark that the Turkish and Mongol peoples stamped on decrees and also branded on their flocks” (I, p. 37). It is probable that the tamḡā had originated as a brand mark (Spuler, Mongolen4, p. 244). Each of the twenty-four tribes of the Oḡuz Turkmen had its own tamḡā, with which it branded its flocks (Rašīd-al-Dīn, I, p. 37). Maḥmūd Kāšḡarī (p. 56) reported that the brand marks with which the Oḡuz identified their flocks were really the emblems of each tribe. Five of those brand marks were recorded by both Kāšḡarī and Rašīd-al-Dīn (Table 32). According to Abu’l-Fażl Bayhaqī (ed. Fayyāż, pp. 504-05), the pre-­Islamic kings of Persia had their animals branded with their names or emblems (for references in the Šāh-nāma, see Wolff, Glossar, p. 360), and Sultan Maḥmūd of Ḡazna (388-421/998-1030) resumed the custom, ordering his name branded on wild beasts caught during his hunting expeditions. The prince of Čaḡānīān in Transoxania held a great branding festival every year, during which colts were branded with his name; the scene was described in an ode by Farroḵī Sīstānī (Čahār maqāla, ed. Qazvīnī, pp. 59-60). The term dāḡ seems to have been current in medieval Egypt as well. Abū Bakr b. Monḏer, chief veterinary surgeon at the court of the Mamluk sultan Moḥammad b. Qalāwūn (678-89/1280-90), devoted an entire chapter of his book Kāmel al-ṣenāʿatayn al-bayṭara wa’l-zarṭafa to the subject, describing various types of branding ac­cording to region (Syrian, Šūštarī, Indian, Greek, and Maḡrebī; Flügel, II, pp. 550-51).

Branding is still customary among nomadic tribes in Persia (Hourcade, p. 142). Baḵtīārī tribesmen usually brand mares, riding horses, pack horses, and mules on the rump or haunch, cattle and donkeys on the neck, and ewes on the head, and they have a special name for the brand mark in each instance (Karīmī, p. 221); a flock owner does not brand all his animals with the same mark, however. Some brand marks are made with a red-hot iron bent at the top (halken-dāḡ; Figure 27) or fitted with a projection in the shape of a number (e.g. 2, 4); other marks, each consisting of one or a few simple lines, are made with a simple skewer. Ex­amples of Baḵtīārī brand marks are shown in Figure 28. Some Baḵtīārī khans also have their names or emblems branded on large animals, particularly on their mounts (Digard, pp. 65-66).

Camels are branded in some parts of Persia, mainly districts on the edge of the great desert (Dašt-e Kavīr), where camels are still in common use. They are sent on such long journeys that a camel owner often may not see his beasts for months; he therefore brands them in order to distinguish them from those of other own­ers. Branding is performed when the yearling camel (deylāq) is separated from its mother and identification becomes necessary. The mark is usually placed on the animal’s neck, forehead, or haunch. Every camel owner has his private mark. When a camel is sold the previous mark is burned off (bāṭel-dāḡ) and the new owner’s mark branded elsewhere on the animal’s body. Among brand marks to be seen on camels are letters of the alphabet, words, numbers, and combinations of two or more single marks (M. Honarī, p. 63; Salmānī, pp. 158-60). Some examples are shown in Figure 29. As it can happen that several camel owners adopt the same brand mark, it is common for one owner to have his imprinted at a particular angle, another upside down, and so on. See, for example, the dāḡ-e ʿAbbās, in Figure 29.

Branding as punishment. In order to make convicted criminals conspicuous or to disable them, they were marked on the shoulder (cf. dāḡ al-moḏneb in Dozy, I, p. 476). The marks were apparently similar in shape to the types used in branding animals. The blinding of an offender with a red-hot metal rod was another long-standing practice, mainly among kings and governors wishing to disable political rivals (e.g., Jorfāqadānī, pp. 173, 306).

Branding for medical and veterinary purposes. Cau­terization (dāḡ kardan, Ar. kayy) was widely used in medieval medicine for relief of chronic pains, treat­ment of certain types of diseases, and prevention of the spread of gangrene and loss of limbs. It was commonly supposed to be the remedy of last resort when other treatments had failed, and this notion is reflected in Persian literature (e.g., Ẓahīr Fāryābī, p. 224; Ḥāfeẓ, p. 329). The 10th-century writer Moḥammad Rāzī considered cauterization of the upper part of the head the ultimate and most satisfactory remedy for head­ache (1955, I, p. 244) and found cauterization of teeth effective against toothache (1334 S./1955, p. 24). Ebn Sīnā (see avicenna) discussed the value of cauteriza­tion in preventing spread of morbidity and pain and wrote in detail about methods and different sites; he declared that cauterizing instruments should be of gold if possible and that, for the mouth, nose, anus, and other specific parts of the body, the instrument should be used with a shield to protect adjacent areas, particu­larly nerves and ligaments, from damage. In order to stop hemorrhaging, a “strong” cauterization instru­ment was to be used. To remove gangrene or purulent sores, it might sometimes be necessary to use an instrument strong enough and long enough to pen­etrate through muscle to the underlying bone (I, pp. 219-20). In the 14th century Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAbd-Allāh Kāšānī (p. 217) also believed that using a gold cauter­izing instrument would prevent the site from becoming inflamed, so that it could heal quickly. The eminent 12th-century physician Esmāʿīl Jorjānī devoted an entire section of his Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī to cauterization; it contains twelve chapters on different methods and suitable sites. In his opinion, the essential advantage of cauterization was that it removed mois­ture from parts of the body suffering from diseases not curable by drugs. Such disorders as chronic eye inflammation, asthma, leprosy, spleen disease, dropsy, sciatica, and hernia could be treated by appropriate cauterization. The instruments used were supposed to have two or three prongs. Depending on the site and the intensity of the pain or disease, application might be repeated up to six times (pp. 603-04). Bahāʾ-al­-Dawla, the leading physician and medical writer of the Safavid period, used cauterization to treat toothache (fols. 191-92).

Cauterization remained in general use in Persia until the introduction of European medical science in the modern period and is still practiced in remote parts of the country. Mīrzā Aḥmad Tonokābonī, a physician during the reign of Fatḥ-ʿAlī Shah Qājār (1212-50/1797-1834), used it in the treatment of several sorts of disease (p. 356). Dr. Jakob Polak, who worked in Persia in the middle of the Qajar period, found it still in use (II, pp. 241-42). It was recognized, however, that for some diseases cauterization was useless and even harmful. According to Abū Bakr Rabīʿ Aḵawaynī (q.v.; 10th century), amputation of a cancerous part of the body might yield hope of recovery, but if only the cancerous tissue was excised or cauterized there would be no cure, and death might result (p. 606).

Branding or cauterization for veterinary purposes was evidently also a long-standing practice in Persia. Even today it is customary among some tribes. In the Sanskrit hippology ( Śālihotra) branding was recommended to cure various diseases of horses, including swollen lips, sore throat, stiffness of limbs, excessive flow of tears, cataracts, and lack of appetite (pp. 64, 68, 69, 74). In one Persian hippology branding was prescribed for the same diseases and also for coughs and such other respiratory disorders as dry throat, swollen nose, and shortage of breath; they were to be treated by application of hot irons to the horse’s ears and underbelly (Faras-nāma, pp. 86, 89, 91). Ṣadr-al-­Dīn (fl. late 17th century, pp. 37-45) thought that the only way to cure foot lesions and hoof inflammation, spasms, rheumatism, difficulty in walking, sore eyes, swollen knees and shoulders, and foul nose was to make a linear, triangular, cruciform, or circular brand above the animal’s hoof, leg, flank, shoulder, or navel. Today, when Boir Aḥmadī tribesmen find a cow yield­ing milk mixed with blood, they try to cure the trouble by making X-shaped brands on each side of the back of the cow’s udder (Ḥosaynī, p. 73). Branding a camel’s chest is the supposed remedy for the disease called delzanak or deḷčāh, the symptoms of which are loss of appetite and stopping before any hole in the ground; it is thought to result from sudden cooling and heating of the body (Ḡolām-Reżāʾī, p. 77). Other examples are cauterization of the camel’s nose to cure ostoḵᵛānak or menšūk (difficulty in breathing or walking owing to catarrh-induced edema of the septum, through which the halter is passed; M. Honarī, p. 66); branding on the edge of a camel’s lip for bāš-e lab or low (drooping of the lower lip with resulting inability to eat and drink; Ḡolām-Reżāʾī, p. 77); branding a camel’s lips and below its nose for nahāz (cough and bronchial hemor­rhage); and branding the root of a camel’s tail for ḡarab (hair loss and purulent sores on the neck; Salmānī, p. 183).



Abū Bakr Rabīʿ b. Aḥmad Aḵawaynī Boḵārī, Hedāyat al-motaʿallemīn fi’l-ṭebb, ed. J. Matīnī, Mašhad, 1344 Š./1965.

Bahāʾ-al-Dawla Nūrbaḵš, Ḵolāṣat al-tajāreb, Tehran University, Cen­tral Library, ms. 1400.

J.-P. Digard, Techniques des nomades baxtyâri d’Iran, Paris, 1981; tr. A. Karīmī as Fonūn-e kūčnešīnān-e Baḵtīārī, Tehran, n.d.

R. Dozy, Supplément aux dictionnaires arabes, 2nd ed., I, Leiden and Paris, 1927.

Ebn Sīnā, Ketāb al-qānūn fi’l-ṭebb, Būlāq, 1294/1974. Faras-nāma-ye manṯūr, in Do faras-nāma-ye manṯūr wa manẓūm, ed. ʿA. Solṭānī Gordfarāmarzī, Tehran, 1366 Š./1987.

G. Flügel, Die arabischen, persischen und türkischen Handschriften der Kaiserlich-königlichen Hof­bibliothek zu Wien, 3 vols., Vienna, 1865-67; repr. Hildesheim, 1977.

N. Ḡolām-Reżāʾī, “Šotor,” Majalla-ye kešāvarz 8, Ḵordād 1366 Š./May-June 1987, p. 86.

Šams-al-Dīn Moḥammad Ḥāfeẓ Šīrāzī, Dīvān, ed. M. Qazvīnī and Q. Ḡanī, Tehran, 1367 Š./1988.

Reżāqolī Khan Hedāyat, Farhang-e anjomanārā, Tehran, 1288/1871.

M. Honarī, “Šotor-­dārī dar Kavīr,” Majalla-ye mardom-šenāsī wa farhang-e ʿāmma-ye Īrān 2, 1354 Š./1975, pp. 62-­63.

Y. Honarī, “Šotor,” FIZ 25, Tehran, 1361 Š./1982, p. 132.

M.-R. Ḥosaynī Kāzerūnī, “Kūč-e māl-e Kā Ebrāhīm-e īl-e Boir Aḥmadī,” Īlāt wa ʿašāʾer, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 63-101.

B. Hourcade, “Kūč wa eqteṣād-e šabānī dar dāmanahā-ye jonūbī-e Alborz,” in Īlāt wa ʿašāʾer, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983, pp. 130-45.

Nāṣeḥ b. Ẓafar Jorfādaqānī, Tarjama-ye tārīḵ-e yamīnī, ed. J. Sear, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.

Esmāʿīl Jorjānī, Ḏaḵīra-ye ḵᵛārazmšāhī, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976.

A. Karīmī, Ṣafar be dīār-e Baḵtīārī, Tehran, 1368 Š./1989.

Abu’l-Qāsem ʿAbd-Allāh Kāšānī, ʿArāʾes al-jawāher wa nafāʾes al-aṭāyeb, ed. Ī. Afšār, Tehran, 1345 Š./1966.

Maḥmūd b. Ḥosayn Kāšḡarī, Dīwān loḡāt al-Tork I, Istanbul, 1333/1914.

ʿA.-A. Nafīsī (Nāẓem-al-Aṭebbāʾ), Farhang-e Nafīsī, 2nd ed., 1343 Š./1964; repr. Tehran, n.d.

J. E. Polak, Persien. Das Land und seine Bewohner. Ethno­graphische Schilderungen, 2 vols. in 1, Leipzig, 1865.

Rašīd-al-Dīn Fażl-Allāh, Jāmeʿ al-tawārīḵ, 2 vols., ed. B. Karīmī, Tehran, 1362 Š./1983.

Moḥammad b. Zakarīyāʾ Rāzī, al-Ḥāwī, Hyderabad (Deccan), 1955.

Idem, Man lā yaḥżoroho’l-ṭabīb, Tehran, 1334 Š./1955.

Ṣadr-al-Dīn b. Zebardast Khan, Faras-nāma (Toḥfat al-Ṣadr), Calcutta, 1911.

Śālihotra, tr. ʿAbd-Allāh Khan Bahādor Fīrūz-Jang as Faras-nāma, Calcutta, 1910.

M. Salmānī, Šotor wa masāʾel-e ān dar manṭaqa-ye Ḵūr wa Bīābānak, M.A. thesis, Dānešgāh-e Tarbīat-e Modarres, Tehran, 1367-68 Š./1988-89.

Mīrzā Aḥmad Tonokābonī, Barʾ al-sāʿa, Tehran, 1297/1880.

Ẓahīr Fāryābī, Dīvān, Tehran, n.d., p. 224.

Table 32. Examples of Oḡuz Brand Marks

Figure 27. Baḵtīārī branding iron. After Digard, p. 65 fig. 29.

Figure 28. Some typical Baḵtīārī brands. After Digard, p. 66 fig. 30.

Figure 29. Examples of Persian camel brands. After M. Honarī, pp. 62-63; Salmānī, pp. 159-60.

(Ṣādeq Sajjādī)

Originally Published: December 15, 1993

Last Updated: November 11, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, pp. 565-568