From an article about a baby two-toed sloth at the London Zoo:
Keepers have named the young male Edward after Johnny Depp’s famous character, Edward Scissorhands, due to his impressive claws – which will grow up to four inches in length and enable him to cling on and climb easily through the tree-top branches of his Rainforest Life home.
From an Orion Magazine article about an octopus named Athena:
I was struck by this, since Murphy and others had first described Athena’s personality to me as “feisty.” “They earn their names,” Murphy had told me. Athena is named for the Greek goddess of wisdom, war, and strategy. She is not usually a laid-back octopus, like George had been. “Athena could pull you into the tank,” Murphy had warned. “She’s curious about what you are.”
From a LIFE article about Ham, the First Chimpanzee in Space:
The most famous of all the Mercury chimps, due to his landmark January 1961 flight, Ham was actually not publicly called Ham until after the flight succeeded. The name by which he’s now known — an acronym for Holloman Aerospace Medical Center at the Air Force base — was only widely used when he returned safely to earth; NASA reportedly wanted to avoid bad publicity should a named (and thus a known, publicly embraced) animal be killed; all the Mercury chimps were known by numbers.
From “Maine”s GOP governor, veto record-holder, names new dog Veto” in The Seattle Times:
Republican Gov. Paul LePage, the state’s all-time veto champion, has named his new dog Veto.
LePage, who has earned renown for exercising his veto pen on bills he didn’t like, adopted a Jack Russell terrier mix from a shelter.
LePage chose the name Veto because his pet “is the mascot of good public policy, defender of the Maine people and protector of hardworking taxpayers from bad legislation,” his spokesman Peter Steele said.
Steele joked that the governor is going to train the dog to deliver vetoes from his office to legislative leaders.
From the description of a mid-2020 video released by the Australian Reptile Park of New South Wales:
We have a very special announcement… Our very first koala of the season has popped out of Mums pouch to say hello!
Keepers have decided to name her Ash! Ash is the first koala born at the park since the tragic Australian bushfires and is a sign of hope for the future of Australia’s native wildlife.
About Pigcasso, a 450-pound painting pig in South Africa with a great name:
She’s fat, friendly and fabulous! Meet Pigcasso – the fine swine who was rescued from the brink of extinction at a South African pig ‘farm’. From pork chop to hog heaven, she loves the sweet things in life: Eat. Sleep. Eat. Repeat. She also loves to paint – and that’s no hogwash! Pigcasso’s primary purpose? To paint a better picture for farm animals.
Titles of Pigcasso’s paintings include Grin, Vitality, Rockstar, and Brexit.
From an AP News article about a baby deer named after a K-pop star:
Fans of the K-pop group NCT 127 donated money in January to name a baby pudu at the Los Angeles Zoo after one of its members, Haechan (HECH’-ehn). This week, the human Haechan got to meet his namesake, snapping selfies with the little deer at his enclosure.
From an article about the trendiness of giving human names to pets in The Atlantic:
Long, long ago — five years, to be precise — Jeff Owens accepted that his calls to the vet would tax his fortitude. When the person on the other end asks his name, Owens, a test scorer in Albuquerque, says, “Jeff.” When they ask for his cat’s name, he has to tell them, “Baby Jeff.” The black exotic shorthair, a wheezy female with a squashed face and soulful orange eyes, is named for Owens, says his partner, Brittany Means, whose tweet about Jeff and Baby Jeff went viral this past spring. The whole thing started as a joke several years ago, when Means started calling every newcomer to their home — the car, the couch — “Baby Jeff.” Faced with blank adoption paperwork in 2017, the couple realized that only one name would do.
From an article about the bear on the California state flag:
[William Randolph] Hearst put the bear on display [in 1889] in Golden Gate Park and named him Monarch. At more than 1,200 pounds, Monarch was the largest bear ever held captive.
Taking a cue from the Sonoma revolt in 1846 [after which a flag featuring a bear was created to represent the captured region], the state again decided to make the California Grizzly the flag’s focal point. Only this time they wanted a bear that actually looked like a bear.
Illustrators used the recently deceased Monarch as the model for the bear on our state flag.
[Newspaper magnate Hearst took the name “Monarch” from the tagline of the San Francisco Examiner, the “Monarch of the Dailies.”]
From an article about dog names in New Orleans:
New Orleans dogs are often the namesakes of the cuisine (Gumbo, Roux, Beignet, Po-Boy, Boudin); the Saints (Brees, Payton, Deuce); music (Toussaint, Jazz, Satchmo); streets (Clio, Tchoupitoulas, Calliope); neighborhoods (Pearl, Touro, Gert) and Mardi Gras krewes (Zulu, Rex, Bacchus).
From Tropic Thunder: Making of a War Movie Satire by Emanuel Levy:
One cast member had very few complaints about shooting in Hawaii, never letting it get in the way of her own agenda on the set. The filmmakers found Bertha, the water buffalo that [Jack] Black’s character rides, in Texas and flew her to Kauai on a special plane. But about midway through filming, everyone was in for a big surprise. One day the trainer called us and said, Oh, by the way, Bertha can’t work because when we showed up at the corral this morning, she had a calf, recalls producer McLeod. We didn’t know she was pregnant. No one knew she was pregnant. Bertha having this baby was definitely kind of a humorous morale booster for everyone. In honor of Jack Black, the animal trainer named Bertha’s baby Little Jack.
(Here’s a video of Jack Black talking about getting bucked off Bertha during filming.)
From a 2022 National Park Service Instagram post:
Fun fact: The actual number of bobcats named Bob is fairly small.
Many actually prefer Robert.
From the NPS booklet Bears of Brooks River 2018 (PDF):
Bears at Brooks River are assigned numbers for monitoring, management, and identification purposes. Inevitably, some bears acquire nicknames from staff and these nicknames are included in this book, but naming wild animals is not without controversy. Is it appropriate to name wild animals?
Names also carry meaning, intentionally or not. What stigmas would you attach to a young bear nicknamed Fluffy versus a large male bear named Killer? How would those stigmas alter your experience when watching that animal?
[The booklet also included the nicknames of various Katmai bears, including “Walker” (whose “large dark eye rings” were reminiscent of zombie eyes) and “Evander” (who was missing part of an ear, much like Evander Holyfield after his 1997 fight with Mike Tyson).]
From an article about medieval pet names at Medievalists.net:
In England we find dogs that were named Sturdy, Whitefoot, Hardy, Jakke, Bo and Terri. Anne Boleyn, one of the wives of King Henry VIII, had a dog named Purkoy, who got its name from the French ‘pourquoi’ because it was very inquisitive.
From “A Puppy Called Marvin” by Julie Lasky in the New York Times:
Clara is my 2-year-old Wheaten terrier and one of several dogs in my neighborhood with a name that sounds as if it came from a shuffleboard tournament on a golden-years cruise. Among her pals, Fern is red-nose pit bull, Alfie is (mostly) a black lab and Eleanor is a mix of Bernese mountain dog and poodle.
This pack has led me to conclude that whereas we look back to remote centuries when giving children trendy names like Emma, Sebastian, Julian or Charlotte, we name our dogs after our grandparents.
This means that future generations of dogs should be prepared to be called the mom-and-dad names of today. Names like Kimberly, Jason and Heather.
From a 2019 video of Vogue editor Anna Wintour talking about her new puppy, named Finch:
She’s called Finch because we call all of our dogs after characters in To Kill a Mockingbird. So we have had a Scout, a Radley, and a Harper. And let me tell you, they are not happy about Finch’s arrival.
From a video in which rapper DRAM talks about his goldendoodle Idnit [vid]:
So, Idnit — as in, idn’t it so cute.
From a Mental Floss article about why we call parrots Polly by Kara Kovalchik:
The generic name “Pol” for a parrot can be traced back to England since at least the early 1600s. In his 1606 comedy Volpone, Renaissance playwright — and close friend of William Shakespeare — Ben Jonson assigned many of the characters animal personas which reflected their true nature.
Two comic relief-type characters, Sir Politic Would-Be (“Sir Pol” for short) and his wife, are visitors from England who are trying to ingratiate themselves into Venetian society, and they do so by simply mimicking the words and behavior of Volpone and his associates. Because of their endearing ignorance of what they are actually saying when they repeat phrases they’ve learned, Jonson describes them as parrots.
It is unclear whether Jonson actually coined the term “Pol” as a catch-all moniker for parrots, or if he simply popularized it. In any case, indulgent British pet owners eventually turned “Pol” into the much cutesier diminutive “Polly,” and both names made their way across the Atlantic.
From a Stuff.co.nz article about a bright orange seagull with a fitting name:
Staff at the Buckinghamshire, England [animal] hospital say the gull somehow got curry or turmeric all over his feathers, which prevented him from flying properly. The bird, named Vinny after the popular Indian dish Vindaloo curry, put up a fight but eventually let the staff scrub his feathers.
From a late 2020 Zoological Society of London news release:
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s giraffe herd welcomed a giant six-foot-tall new arrival this week — on what has been dubbed ‘the day of hope’ by staff at the UK’s largest zoo.
The female calf was born at the same time [that] the first COVID-19 vaccine was given to 90-year-old Margaret Keenan, during the early hours of Tuesday 8 December — and in recognition of the poignant moment, the infant has been named Margaret.
From a late 2023 BBC article about a rescued turtle:
The tiny turtle was found in a pretty bad condition off the Scottish island of Iona – which she was named after – in January 2022.
Her rescuers weren’t sure if she was going to make it at first, as she is a loggerhead turtle, a tropical species that needs warm temperatures to survive.
But after almost two years of recovery in the UK and Portugal, Iona has now been released back into the ocean by marine scientists.
Top image by Minke Wink from Pixabay
[Latest update: Oct. 2023]