Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky
A lip tattoo is just what its name implies--a tattoo on a horse's lip. It is comprised of letters and numbers and is placed on the inside of the horse's upper lip. A majority of state racing commissions have enacted rules requiring a horse to be tattoo-branded prior to entry in a race. As a service to all Thoroughbred racetracks to enable their compliance with these rules, the Thoroughbred Racing and Protective Bureau applies the tattoo brand to Thoroughbreds stabled at all Thoroughbred Racing Association member tracks as well as non-member tracks and farms throughout the United States and Canada.
Other breed associations have also adapted this identification method for individual horses (racing, Quarter Horses, and Standardbreds). Lip tattoos begin to wear off after four to five years and will continue to fade over time.
For more information on identification of horses, see Permanent Identification in horses.