Naming For Value

by: Darol Dickinson

Valuable registered livestock must have great names. Names of value, power, depth and symbolism can add recognition, and, to the opposite, poor name choices can reduce value.

When the day comes to fill out registration applications some families get a little testy, argumentative, or down right serious about an animal's name. Registration identity may last, not only a life time, but remain in pedigree records for ever.

The legendary Texas Longhorn producer, Frank Doherty always dreaded naming cattle. At one time he used his own name for his animals, the famous Doherty 698, Doherty 9 and a host of others. It worked OK for the really great cattle, but soon some really low-end embarrassing progeny were raised "packing" his famous seal of approval, the Doherty name. Frank was ashamed that his name was on these bottom-end cattle so he stopped that process immediately.



Frank still had a problem. He was having about 50 registerable calves a year so he started naming the heifers "Miss Nevada," "Miss Colorado," and quickly used up all the states. Their calves became "Miss Las Vegas," and "Miss Denver" and that went on for a while. He always dreaded naming cattle.

Although Frank fought with naming for years, others still have a problem with it. Follow along and take a look at just a few of the many systems of naming for value.

Historically the dominant early names on the records were from the Wichita Refuge. At one time over half the registered names reflected the WR prefix and a number. They started with number one and each animal thereafter went up a number. The government likes numbers, but not all cowboys can remember numbers. A cow named a number has to be very special to remember the number. Today there are over four thousand WR numbered cattle. After a period of time people would rename the WR cattle removing the prefix and numbered names. The famous cow Measles was originally WR 2849, but no one remembers her government number.

For great reasons, short is best. The longer a name, the more likely it is to become a shortened "nickname." Nicknames become frustrating to alphabetically find. In fact, the well known nickname may not be the real name at all. In the case of a famous World Champion Cow known as "Lady Zee" her real name on the registration certificate was "Circle D 2 WR Lady Zee." Long names are confusing and even more difficult to squeeze down on an ear tag. Few people know her full name.

In early years of the registry many cattle were named using the word "Texas." Soon there were so many cattle named "Texas This" or "Texas That," it just wore itself out to a generic state.

Pedigree attachment names have been the most popular. The old bull Overwhelmer was the main origin of cattle who carry the "Over" word as part of their name. Literally thousands of cattle have been named with an "Over" somewhere in the name. It is an attached code that tells everyone that this animal traces back to Overwhelmer. There is some kind of unwritten moral code that if your animal doesn't trace to Overwhelmer, don't use the "Over" word.

The pedigree attachment system may combine more than one code word. Perhaps "Over Zee" could be a name for progeny tracing to Overwhelmer and Lady Zee. It is an easy, at-a-glance identity to a pedigree or family of cattle known by consistent names. In horses, dogs and many species of registered animals this is probably far more popular.

The grand kids may name a new puppy "Puddles" or "Ring" or "Tippy." What may fit perfect for a backyard pet could be much too simple for a $5000 registered Championship cow. Therefore, more time and thought should be exercised on a quality Texas Longhorn.

Many cattle have been named famous stallion names, Man O War, Bold Ruler, Impressive, Winning Colors, Secretariat, King and perhaps soon, Super Saver. A name like Bold Ruler allows itself to connect to the whole family by following the attachment code using the word Bold as part of the name. Over the years about half the progeny of Bold Ruler have the first word "Bold." It creates a simple name recognition at a glance. Quickly it identifies a family connection.

Authority names have always been popular, like Beast, Senator, Gunman, Commander, Super Bowl, Sittin Bull, Coach, Emperor, and Top Caliber. Often a new and non-attachment name is used for a prospective great specimen that will forge out their own new personal legacy.

Mexican names are popular mostly for people in southern Texas. Although most people can pronounce the names, some can not. It identifies with the Spanish heritage and origin of the breed. To some this is their choice for names. Probably not as popular in the north.

Names often reflect the people's personalities who own the cattle. Names where grand children have an influence often come up with non-attachment names that are Disney and cartoon characters. This is less likely to be a value name.

Some names are a little on the sleazy side by those who appreciate a shock factor for name recognition. Each to their own. There are no set rules. Crude verbiage often identifies the personality of the owner.

One producer enjoys making a statement of his Bible faith by naming every registered animal a Bible name or Bible verse, often connected with verse numbers as the ID number. It is a strong identity connection and most know the Assad ranch and code presented.

Oxymoron names are fun. For instance, Plastic Sky, Shy Streaker, Rusty Gourd, Leaky Vault, Honest Politician and Happy Loser; names that make no sense at all. Often easy to remember.

Descriptive names like "little", "big" or a combination of words that make a statement. A bull calf may be small and cute when young but the name of "Little Joe" may not be very accurate for a one ton adult. Words like "little" can be embarrassing later on. A bull was once named "Chili Meat" which nearly everyone would agree is not very positive. If you were a bull, how would you like to be named "Hamburger?"  "Little" wins the award for worst name when big horn is a very important value factor.

Regional names of places, mountains, rivers and historical towns are easy. It can give an identity to the area where the producer is located. Any road map helps locate a huge list. There are some colorful Indian names for areas like Niobrara, Wichita, Brazos, Kalispel, Choctaw and Osage.

Celebrities provide an excellent name recognition like John Wayne, Eastwood, Cindy Crawford, Paladin, Lone Ranger, but certainly not Pee Wee Herman.

Steers have their own naming system. Due to their derogatory surgery many have been named after unpopular politicians like Bill, George, Barack, Sadam, Jimmy, and Harry. It depends on your own political slant. Unliked politicians win the race for steer names.

Prefix names are often used with Angus and other beef breeds, but are not as popular with Texas Longhorns or especially high priced horses. More names are changed for the purpose of removing a prefix than any other reason. If a code initial is desired, many are changing to the end of the name in order not to create an alphabetical headache when searching for a name. The code is still there  behind the name and is less likely to get name-changed in the official records.

Shorter names are less likely to be referred to in shortened nick names. Name short and that helps. For instance the bull JP Rio Grande is called "Rio." The famous bull Cowboy Tuff Chex is too long for some so he is often called "Tuff." Names like Drag Iron, Rip Saw, Hooray, Sniper, Dillon and Tempter will seldom have nick names.

Each association registry has a provision for name changes. If a critter is purchased with a name that is just totally undesirable, for a small fee, change it. If you purchase a great herd sire named "Little 24D Chili Meat Pelosi" that would be a good reason to pay the fee! Pay it before the first ad is placed. Do it now!

Plan on naming valuable cattle names with value. It will affect their sale value and their national recognition. Keep'em short.

One last tip for a person who annually gets high-centered on registration names -- carry a note book and write down every good name you see or hear. When the time comes, just pick a name. Simple. That's all there is to it!