Names of horses and yachts

Horse

“These devices can be used for any moniker…”

The linguistic field of horses’ names in English is replete with bizarre combinations and unlikely conjunctions. There’s a reason for this, or rather several reasons. There are millions of horses in the world, mostly bred for racing, so each horse must have a fixed and unique name to enable fair and scrupulous gambling.

Fixed Names

The fixed side of things is strictly governed, to prevent the kind of fraudulent substitutions that are tempting to the professional gambler. Here is one of the Australian Rules of Racing: the rules allow “the managing owner to apply in writing to the Registrar of Racehorses (ROR) for permission to change the name of a registered horse. If the horse’s name is changed, the horse will not be permitted to run under the new name until the Document of Description or Thoroughbred Identification Card, detailing the new name, has been issued.” (Courtesy of RISA, Racing Information Services Australia Pty Ltd., a proprietary company limited by shares.)


An American website is hardly more relaxed:

You can call your horse anything you want. However, if you want to register your horse (necessary for breeding papers, many competitions, etc.), your horse’s official name must conform to a set of rules. […] As an example of the detailed rules, following are the names which are unacceptable for Thoroughbred horses registered in USA:

1. Names consisting of more than 18 letters (spaces and punctuation marks count as letters);
2. Names consisting entirely of initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc.;
3. Names ending in “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any similar horse-related term;
4. Names consisting entirely of numbers. Numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out;
5. Names ending with a numerical designation such as “2nd” or “3rd,” whether or not such a designation is spelled out;
6. Names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club;
7. Names of persons no longer living unless approval is granted by The Jockey Club based upon a satisfactory written explanation submitted to the Registrar;
8. Names of racetracks or graded stakes races;
9. Names clearly having commercial, artistic or creative significance;
10. Names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups;
11. Names that appear to be designed to harass, humiliate or disparage a specific individual, group of individuals or entity;
12. Names that are currently active either in racing or breeding (see Rule6(E));
13. Names of winners in the past 25 years of grade one stakes races;
14. Permanent names. The list of criteria to establish a permanent name is as follows:
a. Horses in racing’s Hall of Fame;
b. Horses that have been voted Horse of the Year;
c. Horses that have won an Eclipse Award;
d. Horses that have won a Sovereign Award (Canadian Champions);
e. Annual leading sire and broodmare sire by progeny earnings;
f. Cumulative money winners of $2 million or more;
g. Horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Turf; and
h. Horses included in the International List of Protected Names.
15. Names similar in spelling or pronunciation to the classes of names listed in Rule 6(F) 6 – 14 above.
[The articles on this website were written by Doug Stewart based on his experience as a horse owner (Appaloosa & Paint horses), stable manager for retired horses and research.]

The owner of the “Horse Report” website advertises lists of useful horse names — try not to be too upset by the tandem adjectives “more unique”, okay? —

Racing and Show
Don’t overlook these names just because you don’t have a race horse. These devices can be used for any moniker. [List]

You’ve found a great name for your horse, but it’s already taken. Here are descriptive words to modify your great idea to make it unique. [List]

Here are more adjectives to create great race horse names. [List]
Try these titles for more unique combinations. [List]
These say speed! [List]
Follow this link for equine monikers from popular culture. [List]
Awesome! [List]
These relate to love and friendship. [List]
These are space related. [List]
These relate to happiness. [List]
Here are names for luck and good fortune. [List]
These are magic and dreams themed. [List]
Travel the world in your own saddle with these geographical place names. [List]
These horse names are musical. [List]
Females Only [List]
Here are feminine names for your mares and fillies. [List]
More feminine ones for mares and fillies. [List]
And here are some just for girls. [List]
Flowers make great girl horse names. [List]

Unique Names

The search for a unique name for your horse to distinguish it from the millions of others, a name that is derived from the names occurring in a strong breeding line, one that is “lucky” and magically potent as well as memorable and stylish, leads to some extraordinary linguistics contortions. Some current Australian horse names in 2012:

John Forbes, Sydney, 1990-07-20, photo by John Tranter
John Forbes, Sydney, 1990-07-20, photo by John Tranter

Anise, Obsequious, Desuetude, Mnemosyne, Lieutenant, Smart Missile, Dashing Eagle, Lord Jim, Sir Dapper, Proud Knight, Bold Promise, Trusting, Handsome Ransom, Parables, Yodelay, Patronise, Moonflute, Assertive Lass, Regimental Gal, Soul Queen, Gallant Tess, Ha Ha, Flitter, A Little Kiss, Stripper, My Lady’s Chamber, Love and Kisses, Samantha Miss, Hurtle Myrtle, Testa Rossa, Chocolate Starfish, Yoyangamble

My friend the late John Forbes wrote a brilliant poem about the contradictory role of the poet in modern society. It’s called “Monkey’s Pride”, and you can read it here. John’s titles were sometimes oblique, and I worried about this one for a year or so until a friend explained that the title was the name of a racehorse. John had been a keen punter, as horserace gamblers are called in Australia. Did the horse win? I hope so.

Yacht Names

Yacht names, while equally strange, have a very different linguistic feel and a more limited psychological ambit. They do not need to be unique, for one thing. They seem to me to be limited to clever and sometimes near-obscene innuendos, puns or foreign terms relating to pleasure or retirement, beautiful foreign women (like the names adopted by the various ladies in a floating brothel), or lovely legends, or seeking for freedom or spiritual peace. These examples are from a list published in the USA:

Absolute Pleasure, Anchor Management, Aphrodisias, Aqua Bella, Bay Dreamer, Bella Donna, Black Diamond, Black Widow, Blue Seraph, Calypseaux, Champagne Sunset, Charisma, CoverGirl, Dawn Breaker, Day Dream, Deep Obsession, Diablo Del Mar, Docs Orders, Dolphin Dreamer, Dream Chaser, Eastern Princess, Elysian Dream, Euphoria, Fantastique, Finesse, Ghost Rider, Gladiator, Good Kharma [sic], Keira, La Dolce Vita, Misteriosa, Moondancer, Mystic Dreams, Night Crawler, Nocturne, Nordic Knight, Princess Amanda, Rainbow Chaser, Sail La Vie, Serenity, Ship Happens, Soleil du Nord, SoulSearcher, Sun Chaser, Sun Dancer, Sun Searcher, Toucan Dream, Veronique, Vlad the Impaler, Wave Dancer, Wind Seeker, Wind Spirit.

I’m waiting to hear about a Romanian mogul who made his pile from pharmaceuticals and nasal sprays, and then retired to roam the seas… His yacht: “Vlad the Inhaler”.