French Culture – French Dog Names

Did you know that in France all dogs born in the same year must start with a certain letter? French dog names are dictated by a naming convention that has been in place for nearly a hundred years!

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French Dog Names

On a trip to Paris one November, I learned an interesting piece of trivia that I had not come across while living in France. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we were in our hotel room resting and watching the famous Sunday afternoon talk-show called Vivement Dimanche with Michel Drucker. The show has been on forever! It is an interview-style show where Michel spends an hour with a famous guest talking about their life.

On that particular Sunday, the guest was former French President Jacques Chirac. He was being interviewed on how life was post-Presidency. At the end of the show, Michel gave Mr. Chirac a puppy (they are both dog lovers) and made a comment to the effect of, “It’s the year of the ‘E’ what will you name him? Maybe Elysees?” I thought to myself, what the heck is he talking about?

The very next day while I was reading C’est la Vie by Suzy Gershman. I read the chapter where Suzy brings a dog from the U.S. to Paris. She had to take the dog to the vet and her vet became very confused with the dog’s age after hearing the name. She had to explain that the dog was American and not French so its name did not follow the rules.

And that is how I found out there are dog-naming rules in France. Always new things to learn!

In 1926 the government decided that all dogs born in the same year would have a name beginning with the same letter. This was really to make it simpler for dog genealogists for dog shows, etc., but it was adopted everywhere. The letter “Z” was excluded due to the scarcity of names beginning with that letter. In 1973, they decided to remove 5 letters (K, Q, W, X, Y), for the same reason.

I am not sure what systems are set up to police or govern this. I certainly wouldn’t want to be restricted in naming my pets. Maybe it is only for purebreds and not pet shop or shelter animals. Do any of my French readers know?

Names for 2020 started with R.

2021 is S!

Here are the future letters for the French Naming Convention for dogs.

Mr. Misadventures and I are thinking of getting a dog soon, so as a francophile married to a Frenchman, and are thinking of names with the letter S.

Do you have any suggestions?

How about you? Do you live in France and used this system? Is there a similar system in your country? If you live in the US, what do you think of this system?

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French Culture: French Dog Names

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15 Comments

  1. Wishing4One
    March 5, 2010

    That is such a great piece of French trivia. I wonder if people really follow it or how it is enforced. I am guessing as you mentioned it may apply to only purebreds or show animal? Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Nathalie Hamidi
    March 5, 2010

    Actually, only the breeders have to follow that rule, for pure race dogs with pedigree. You can decide to call your dog any name you want, event if it’s another name on the paper.

    Reply
    1. Andi
      March 5, 2010

      Thanks for clearing that up Nathalie!

      Reply
  3. SomethingToSay
    March 5, 2010

    Wow… interesting.. thanx for sharing Andi 🙂

    Reply
  4. Lori
    March 5, 2010

    Have you read Sarah’s Key? Probably several times…..

    Reply
  5. Frances V.
    March 5, 2010

    I found out about this too last year in France, I found it interesting yet bizarre. I guess if I ever live in France and decide to get a puppy, I have to plan it accordingly to the letter….but other than that, I would like the freedom of naming my dog whatever I choose 🙂

    Reply
  6. Terry Elisabeth
    March 6, 2010

    C’est bizarre. I don,t know if my parents know this but it would be a great conversation starter for my Paris loving parents. They are going to paris again this year.

    Reply
  7. Stephanie
    March 10, 2010

    All these strange rules, I wonder if there are any strange rules lurking around South Africa that no one knows about?

    Reply
    1. Andi
      March 10, 2010

      @Stephanie – I bet you there are – great blog fodder!

      Reply
  8. Ingrid
    March 26, 2010

    I am reading up on your older French Friday posts, so my comment comes a bit late, but here you go. The naming according to the letter of the year is not only a French thing, in Belgium breeders also have to stick to the letter of the year the puppy or kitten was born is (provided the little one has a pedigree). Although to make things “easier”, the letters aren’t the same in both countries (2010 for instance is a J year in Belgium and a F year in France). It never occured to me that it wasn’t a global standard … so I learned somthing new today as well. :o)

    Reply
  9. Hans Lafaso
    March 30, 2010

    Hi, Very interesting article. I am quite impressed and just wanted to let you know that you did a fine job on this article. However, I do have some unanswered questions that I would like to ask you. I will contact you via email so that you can clear some of these things up for me. Again, very well written article. Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  10. MaryAnna
    April 21, 2011

    To Ingrid or anyone who may be in the know:
    Does Belgium skip any letters of the alphabet?
    Would love to know.
    I have a Belgium Griffon (male) but if ever I were to have a female
    And have a litter of pups… I think I would prefer to follow the. Belgium tradition.

    Reply
    1. Andi
      April 22, 2011

      @MaryAnna, I am going to try to find out for you!

      Reply
  11. Jenny Knight
    May 2, 2016

    We got a Staffie puppy in France last year ,the year of L.We called him Lord Arthur,commonly known as Arthur.The French have a problem with the th sound so the all call him Artur.
    My previous dog was born in 2003,the year of U. his name was UFO from Todspack,known as Sam.
    you can call them what you like.

    Reply
  12. Fiona MItchell
    September 20, 2020

    This rule applies not just to pedigree dogs, also to cats and cows! In 2004 when I moved to France I visited a cattle show, with beautiful breeds of cattle. The letter that year was V, and all the young calves were called Victor, Valerie, etc.

    Reply

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