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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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?)
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:
I expect they would write "samoyed pup".
If your publication doesn't have their own style guide, pick your own and be consistent.