Yellowstone: Rip Wheeler’s Brand Has A Secret Dark History


Saying that Rip Wheeler (Cole Hauser) has always been a company man for the Dutton family in “Yellowstone” is putting it mildly. He’s jumped through hundreds of hoops to ensure his wife, Beth (Kelly Reilly), comes out on top and dedicates himself to keeping the Dutton family’s interests hale and healthy. Rip is so dedicated to the Dutton ranch that the gigantic brand he wears is the same one sported by the cattle John Dutton (Kevin Costner) sells — a simple y-shaped mark. And there’s a very tragic reason why Rip sports this branding.

During Episode 7 of Season 5, “The Dream is Not Me,” the audience flashes back alongside Rip to see his origin point. When Rip (Kyle Red Silverstein) was a teenage ranch hand, he and a young man named Rowdy (Kai Caster) rivaled one another for Beth’s hand. The two get to warring over Beth one day while out alone on a drive, and the ensuing fistfight results in Rip stabbing Rowdy. He rides off to get John Dutton’s (Josh Lucas) help, but it’s too late for Rowdy by the time they get there. Rip confesses everything to John, who’s startled by his future son-in-law’s honesty.

Rip explains that he has no family, that Yellowstone is his family, and that John told him never to lie. He says that John can pitch him off the ranch if he wants; he won’t leave no matter what happens. John and Rip conspire to cover up Rowdy’s death as an accident and disappear the boy. Then John ascertains Rip’s loyalty by branding him with the ranch’s mark. That forever ties Rip’s destiny to the Duttons, f or better or worse.


While the branding scenes are brutal enough to watch on “Yellowstone,” it turns out those marks aren’t some makeup effect.

Cole Hauser previously let audiences in on the secret of Yellowstone’s branding scenes

Plenty of other characters — including Teeter (Jennifer Landon) – have been branded with that distinctive Y-shaped brand since Rip first proclaimed his loyalty to the Dutton cause. While the show has slowly changed its technique for those infamous branding scenes, they look dangerous for a reason. It turns out that the actors actually heat up real pieces of metal to get the proper effect across and even brand prosthetics made out of leather to achieve a realistic look. While speaking with Popcorn Talk in 2019, Cole Hauser revealed how he, Kevin Costner, and Jefferson White brought Jimmy Hurdstrom’s branding scene to life.

“They’ve kind of perfected it, but when I had to brand Jimmy in the very beginning, they just took a piece of wood and put a leather strip on it, and he had to hold it. And I actually branded it with a hot iron,” he revealed.

White later revealed what taking the brand from his side of the board was like. “I was holding a sort of wooden panel directly below the frame that they were actually pressing a superheated iron into,” he confirmed to Behind the Story. “It was the only way they could get the steam effect they wanted.”

It seems you have to be tough to work behind the scenes, as well as in front of the camera, when filming “Yellowstone.”