It’s a Western trait to name animals. I hadn’t given this any thought until we did a trip to Tunisia where I rode on some camels. In true novice tourist fashion, I innocently asked what my camel’s name was. The reply was ‘Monica’. When I got to camel number two and asked the same question I got a strange look and was told the camel didn’t really have a name but I could call it ‘Said, if you really want to’. This promoted further questions and discovery. A point reaffirmed when we visited Mongolia and farming friends in Tanzania. None of these people name their animals – to do so gives them an identity which leads to an attachment making the loss of the beast (for food, income etc) far more difficult to cope with.
In contrast, was the Boer tendency to name their oxen. Listening to Dr Hanschell‘s reminiscences of his time with the Lake Tanganyika Expedition, he was quite taken with the Boer oxen having names – those most prominent being Rooinek and Engelsman (Red neck and Englishman). From Hanschell’s recollection these two oxen received the most beatings and yellings – the Boer’s sense of humour (?) at the antagonism between Brit and Boer which had erupted in the 1899-1902 War.
The Boers working as transport riders too named their oxen as noted by Norman Jewell in his memoirs (forthcoming). Here, all the oxen (eighteen pairs) in each team had the same name for each position allowing any driver to take over the span of oxen.
Most recently the significance of animal names was brought home with the killing of Cecil the lion. I leave Themba Mzingwane to say more (thanks to Jennifer Upton for the link).