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I've already looked around for an answer to this question, but many answers contradict each other. What I'd like to know is whether or not different animal breeds are capitalized in professional writing. If I'm writing about my dog, Loki, would I say that he's a "samoyed" or a "Samoyed" pup?

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Well, you want "doberman" but "French poodle". –  GEdgar May 13 '12 at 23:33
    
Samoyed is a proper name; it refers to a group of Uralic cultures and languages (Enets, Nenets, Selkup, and Nganasan) in Siberia. So it should be capitalized, just like the E in English setter. –  John Lawler May 13 '12 at 23:36
    
The easiest thing to do might be simply to look it up on Wikipedia and see if it's capitalized there. –  zpletan May 13 '12 at 23:40
    
Easiest, but not necessarily what is commonly used. Doberman Pinscher gets two capital letters and in that article Old German Shepherd Dog gets four. Consequently we may need to know what the "professional writing" in the question actually means. –  Andrew Leach May 13 '12 at 23:50
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2 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

For our veterinary journals, we have a style guide that tells us which dog and cat breed names to capitalize. The list is based on entries in The American Heritage Dictionary (our company's standard). If the breed isn't listed in that dictionary, we editors come to a consensus and add it to our style guide.

Basically, however, if the breed does not contain a place name or a proper name (like the King Charles spaniel or Jack Russell terrier), it is spelled with all lower case letters. A few examples: we would use Labrador retriever but golden retriever; English springer spaniel but cocker spaniel; Scottish terrier but fox terrier. Samoyed would be capitalized (because as one commenter stated it is also the name of a nomadic people in Siberia). Also, note that Dalmatians are named after Dalmatia, so that breed name is capitalized.

This is essentially a matter of style. The American Kennel Club capitalizes all dog breed names, it appears. I think if you are consistent and have a rationale for how you capitalize the breed names, that will work just fine in professional writing. Also, if you submit your writing for publication somewhere, an editor will help you follow that publication's style. This is not something to concern yourself with too greatly. Just don't spell Dalmatian as "Dalmation," and you will be fine.

(Loki, the god of mischief...does he live up to his name?)

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You had me up until your last sentence about 'Dalmation'; you've spelled it and capitalized it identically, but said to both do it that way and not do it that way. Which is it? –  Mitch May 14 '12 at 12:01
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@Mitch, I think you misread. It is -ian, not -ion. And very commonly misspelled. –  JLG May 14 '12 at 12:16
    
Ah..exactly the problem, my not being able to read. Thanks. –  Mitch May 14 '12 at 12:22
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This is largely a matter of style, and will depend largely on the publication you're writing for. JLG gave an example for veterinary journals, and a contrasting example can be found in the Guardian newspaper's style guide:

dogs

normally lc, eg alsatian, doberman, jack russell, labrador, rottweiler, yorkshire terrier; but note Irish setter, old English sheepdog

I expect they would write "samoyed pup".

If your publication doesn't have their own style guide, pick your own and be consistent.

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