How to Name a Cow: A Quick and Easy Guide

Alexander Elko

Writer’s comment: I do not exactly remember what inspired me to write about this topic. It was a good excuse for some bad puns. I think I was playing with the concept that if cows were not a commodity, they would be driven close to extinction because they make lousy house pets.
—Alexander Elko

Instructor’s comment: My first assignment in English 104C, Article Writing, is normally a “featurette” or a “column.” While I always list some possible topics, I have never suggested “How to Name a Cow.” Most students lack the bovine background for such ruminant rumination. But not Alexander Elko, who proved himself a master of the tour de cow. His little essay is full of wit, style, and surprise. I will applaud Alex and his “Quick and Easy Guide” until the cows come home.
—John Boe, English Department

Naming your cow may not be an easy task. While some claim to be well versed in bovine nomenclature, many first-time cow owners are not. It may be true that cattle should not be named because a growing attachment to your cow may hinder economic gain—if you plan to eat your cow, don’t name it.
         Most cow lovers need not worry about any of this. Their cows have become welcome household pets. They have put down their steak knives and decided to dine with them, not on them. Such docile animals have now become a part of the family, and owning but a few cows has eased the problem of naming a vast herd of cattle.
         I once knew a family in Loma Rica that tried to name all their many cows. They couldn’t keep track of them, and the family became mean, bitter people. Cows are just too damn difficult to distinguish from each other when they are in large groups, and you just plain run out of names.
         Cow connoisseurs usually begin with one or two cows and are therefore able to relate to their cows on a more personal level. Get in touch with your cow. Spend quality time with it. Get to know it as it gets to know you. Both you and your cow have distinctive attributes that distinguish either of you from others. That should play a big part in the naming process, and spending time with your animal creates a better bond and gives insight to a proper name for the creature.
         I might like a bizarre name like Sink, Horse, or Unhalangami, depending on the personality of my cow. Another person might like a more traditional name like Daisy or Buttercup. Try naming your bovine after an obvious characteristic or physical feature. If your cow is a rich brown color, name it Chocolate, or if your cow habitually flies into the sun with wax wings, name it Icarus. It really depends on you and your cow.
         Traditional names are simple. So if you own a traditional cow, name her Bossy, or Bessy, or Daisy, or Lulu, or Buttercup, or Bertha, or Bubba, or Beauregard. Also keep in mind that traditional names vary geographically. For instance, I found that Brunhilde, Lore, Lotte, Rosa, Thilde, and Lisa are commonly given to cows in Germany. Other common European names include Peppo, Maxi, Moriz, and Marla. (A foreign name will add spice to any pasteurized cow.)
         Another easy approach to cow christening is naming your creature after a famous or inspiring figure. Music, sports, or movie stars are a great source. Classic examples are Elvis, Jordan, and Winona. Or how about celebrities Aristotle, Einstein, or Thurgood Marshall? If you have several cows, name them after the characters of the infamous O. J. trial: Shapiro, Ito, Cochran, Kato. “This is my cow, Juror #12.” What better way to keep tradition alive?
         From flowers bloom excellent cow names: Rose, Violet, Dahlia, Marigold, etc. However, it is wise to avoid cruel names. Don’t breed animosity by naming your animal Big Mac, Milk Shake, Sir Loyn, or Rump Roast.
         Parents sometimes select an ample supply of potential names for their offspring, and more names are introduced by friends and relatives. What better use of this surplus than towards your cow? In fact, this is just one reason so many people are investing in cows—cows are an outlet for the names they like but can’t use.
         If you can’t think of a good name, ask around. Go to a dairy and see what the pros are doing. I found that county fairs are a good place to start. Winners like Red Express, Heartbroke 184, and California Dynamite are great choices. Try cute sprite-like names such as Pixie or Tinkerbell. Add prefixes like Ms. or Miss: Ms. Latofa, Miss Brimby, Miss Judith Jill. Explore name-lexicons. Take another look at your cow. Does it resemble anyone in particular? Some cows just look like a Brigitte or a Samson.
         A final and desperate approach to naming is the point-in-the-dictionary technique. With dictionary in hand, close your eyes. Open the dictionary, and with your finger point to an entry. Open your eyes. The word you land on is the new name for your farm animal. To illustrate this, here is a selection of words I arrived at using this technique: Delusion, Insulate, Mephistopheles, Toilet Water, Rolling Pin, Dinner Jacket, Vendetta, and Alaska. You can get some really great names by employing this technique, but it may take several tries. Try other reference books for variation.
         An alternative approach: Instead of names, give your cows words. Paint a word or phrase on each cow. (Nontoxic cold-cream-based finger paint works well for this.) As your cows arrange themselves in a field, in a sort of fluxus tradition, they create an artful type of found poetry. Your cows can be your art.
         All in all, research your possibilities; milk your sources. If you are religious, pray, and ask for guidance. Ask your friends. Ask your grandmother. (If you ask me, I would name my cow Heimlich. Then I could have Heimlich manure!) Most of all, be creative. Don’t stress, because with these pointers, naming your cow will be fun, easy, and satisfying.