The Name Game

The moment has finally arrived and one of your girls has given birth to a beautiful new cria. You can’t believe how perfect each looks when it arrives. Never what you expect, but exactly what you want. Beautiful fleece, nursing well, big doe eyes, long lashes, strong legs underneath it, full of promise.

Now the pressure begins …

… what to name it!

How do we it? How do others do it?

"Bold Ruler" at rest.

“Bold Ruler” at rest.

Here at Oak Hills, we do it quickly. I am absolutely frantic to choose a name. A little babe running around the pasture without a name feels like a little body without a soul. I feel like they are here to stay once they have their own identity and moniker.

In our first year on the farm we welcomed a single cria. It didn’t occur to us what an ordeal it would be to name him until he hit the ground. Your first cria is a miracle. “Barn blind” doesn’t begin to describe the rose coloured glasses you have on when you look at this little one. Your vision is so blurred that it impairs your brain a little too. You just can’t think. If there is more than one of you welcoming the little one, the opinions about names are mind boggling. And don’t sleep on it – morning only brings more confusion, and more ideas.

We turned that dilemma into a fun, year-long name game.

Inspiration comes at the strangest of times and in the strangest of places. It seems you can never think of a great name when you need one, but when you don’t, inspiration is right around the corner. To be sure we capture those moments, we began a list of names and we keep it at our fingertips. Today’s technology – the cell phone – became the repository of “THE LIST”.

All white_low resWhen we get down in the dumps, depressed by the weight of the world or the challenges we encounter, someone will inevitably break the silence and the tension by asking “what should we name this year’s cria?” Just the mention of cria makes a smile creep over everyone’s face. The ideas begin to fly.

Our youngest is now the keeper of the list on her cell phone. We might be enjoying dinner at an elegant restaurant, hiking a trail, sitting in the doctor’s office or watching a movie, and an idea comes up. When the ideas start to flow, we are sure to capture them.

Have you found yourself struggling to find that perfect name too? Or do you have a rock solid system to get to a name?

Wilder lives up to her name, getting wild with her herd mates!

Wilder lives up to her name, getting wild with her herd mates!

Our inspiration has come from so many different places. The movie Secretariat had us falling in love with the horse and the story. The legendary racer’s sire, “Bold Ruler”, gave name to our most recent arrival. A favourite hymn placed the name “Wildwood” on our beautiful black baby this summer. When one little fellow wouldn’t sit still, even on day one, we named him “Jett Stream” – and he hasn’t slowed down since. In the year of the Royal Wedding, when no one could forget Pippa, you guessed it, we christened a “Pippa” here on the farm. A good song can always inspire, just as it did for “Hey There Delilah”. And when we bought a cria, sight unseen, and took a chance on her, she was given the name “Kay Sera Sera” ‘cause whatever will be, will be! And there’s nothing like giving a nod to the fabulous Doris Day either!

We follow our inspiration, but others have tried and true systems for naming their livestock. Taking a page out of the cattle industry’s book, some use the same letter of the alphabet to begin every cria’s name in one particular year. This helps to remember the age of your animals as well. Others name each cria with the same first letter of the dam’s name, making it easy to track lineage on their farm. And some have a theme that provides the year’s inspiration, such as Motown tunes and artists, giving rise to “Smokey Robinson” and other great names. We have even heard of farms that crack open the baby book to find the perfect name.

Personality traits will often lead to an inspiration for a name.

Personality traits will often lead to an inspiration for a name.

While we race to get our cria named, others take weeks and let inspiration slowly set in. Some wait to see what personality traits become visible. And others have their cria named before they hit the ground. Another naming method has people creatively combining the sire and dam’s names to come up with something truly unique. Others give a nod to their own heritage or the South American heritage of alpacas themselves, by selecting names with a linguistic or cultural theme.

Whatever method you use to name your cria, we all have one thing in common. We search for strong, virile names to ensure our males capture your attention for your breeding programs before you even lay eyes on them. And we try to convey the beauty and elegance of the fleece and the animals when we name our lovely little girls.

"Fia" or "Fireworks Fiasco" arrived during our Canada Day festivities, right before the fireworks show.

“Fia” or “Fireworks Fiasco” arrived during our Canada Day festivities, right before the fireworks show.

These majestic and imaginative names are meant for the registration certificate. Day to day, our herd have “barn names” or the alpaca equivalent of nick names. “Bold Ruler” is our Bo. “Wildwood” is “Wilder”. “Jett Stream” is “Jett”. And “Kay Sera Sera” is “Miss Kay”.

What are we required to do as breeders? The Canadian Llama and Alpaca Association provides us with 30 characters to get really creative with a name. This includes the “herd identifier” or the prefix which identifies a farm. To give ourselves the maximum opportunity to be creative, we registered our farm with the herd identifier of OH for Oak Hills. This means that all offspring bred here on our farm have registered names beginning with the exclamation “OH”. This turns even a tame name into an exclamation. OH Bold Ruler!

Surprisingly, we are often asked if our alpacas have names. Half the fun of introducing people to alpacas is seeing their reaction when they meet them and hear their names.

What’s in a name? For us here at Oak Hills Alpacas, a name is what plants their little hooves on the ground.

Wilder_low resNames to Inspire:

  • Bold Ruler (at Oak Hills Alpacas)
  • Hankey Bannister (at Alpaca Central)
  • Slingshot (at Sumaq Valley Alpacas)
  • Sawyer Lookin Brown (at TNC Farms)
  • Jokers Wylde (at Twolooms)
  • Aftershock (at Averegan Alpacas)
  • High Kurumba (at High Plains Alpacas)
  • Northern Exposure (at Snowmass Alpacas)


Jett Stream_low resOriginally published in the March 2015 issue of Camelid Quarterly.  A special thanks to the editors for their permission to reprint.