Animal Names: The Wild Kingdom

This week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel leads us into the jungle for some wild animal names.

Not so long ago, baby boys were named Jason and Kevin and Joshua, and a lynx was something we saw at the zoo on the kindergarten field trip.   

Now a growing number of boys are sharing their names with the zoo’s residents – and not just any residents, but the fiercest of creatures.  The trend owes something to nature choices like River and Sky, as well as tough names for boys like Gunner and Slade.

It isn’t completely new.  Plenty of given names refer to animals.  Wolfgang is a traditional German appellation worn by the legendary MozartFactor in nicknames and the list grows.  There’s Coach Bear Bryant, only his mama named him Paul.  Comedian Bobcat Goldthwait?  He was born Robert Francis.

For parents leaning towards hyper-masculine options like Cannon and Blaze, choosing an apex predator for a son’s name might feel just right.  The more dangerous members of the animal kingdom offer more options than you might imagine, though some are extreme.

I have to offer a disclaimer: this just isn’t my style, though I find some of these intriguing.  Would you consider any of the animal names for your child?  And is there a difference between a gentle creature and a more aggressive one?

Bear – Actor Alicia Silverstone used the name for her son, Bear Blu.  Musician Anthony Kiedis has a son called Everly Bear.

 Caiman – Part Cayden, part tropical island.  The Caymans take their name from this native word for alligator.  You wouldn’t name your son crocodile, but this feels surprisingly wearable.

Dhole – It looks like a kreatif spelling meant to distance Dole from the pineapple and/or the politician.  But dholes are actually wild dogs native to India, China, and Vietnam.  When hunting in a pack, they’re tough enough to take down a tiger.

Eagle – Perhaps a patriotic choice for American parents, and the logical masculine equivalent of stylish girls’ names like Wren and Raven.

Falcon – Another sky-worthy option, worn by the boy who caused a media sensation in 2009, when his parents reported that he’d stowed away in a homemade hot air balloon and was drifting in the Denver skies.

Fox – One of the more stylish options, made famous by X-Files detective Fox Mulder and recently chosen by parents featured on Bravo’s Pregnant in Heels.  (No, not the couple who requested an in-depth name consultation.)

Hawk – Another avian option, this time with links to occupational surnames for someone who bred or trained the birds.

JackalJack and Jackson are wildly popular.  If a jackal was just a canine cousin to the wolf, it might be a possibility.  But given the tendency of real and fictional terrorists and assassins to wear this nickname, it feels more extreme than Tiger or Bear.

Kestrel – Another bird of prey, and perhaps the only name on the list that seems better suited for a daughter.

Leo, Leon, Lev, and Lion – The king of the jungle has inspired plenty of names for boys over the centuries.  There’s nothing outrageous about naming a son Leo in 2011.  He and his cousins Leon and Lev don’t quite make the list of tough names for boys, but Lion might.

Lynx – The big cat is somewhere between the perfectly wearable Leo and outlandish ideas like Panther or JaguarLynx stays on the right side of possible thanks to his similarity to the presidential Lincoln and the Latin origins of lynx – it means light, inspired by the cat’s bright eyes.

Marlin – Despite the gamefish, this ocean-inspired name is probably not striking fear in anyone’s heart.

Monitor – Like Caiman, a reptilian pick that isn’t too obvious.  Unthinkable if your last name is Hall.

Python – In one sitcom, the dad was always worried that his teenage daughter will date a ne’er do well called Snake.  I’d suggest that Python, Boa, and Rattle are all equally unthinkable.

Ray – As in the stingray and the electric ray.

Taipan – The only snake name that might work, thanks to his similiarity to surname Tyson.  Taipan is also a Cantonese term for a business exec, translating to “top class.”

TalonEven if you’re into tough names for boys, Claw is probably not on your list.  Talon means claw and has been in the US Top 500 since 2006.

Tiger – For better and for worse, associated with star athlete and famous philanderer Woods.

 Wolf – At the end of the list, here’s the name that started it all.  From Twilight to True Blood, werewolves are a major pop culture force. MTV launched a rebooted version of Teen Wolf this month, promising to be more Jacob Black, less Michael J. Fox.  Speaking of Fox

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