Since my (pig’s) ear was chewed off when I mistakenly referred to a sow as “he” last week, I will clear up some animal terminology. Not only does it show I admit mistakes, but it also means I can share the great wisdom of animal references, those most people know as well as little-known terms only practiced in a cave somewhere near Cambodia.
To begin with the pig terms, a sow is strictly an adult female pig. An adult male pig is known as a boar and young pigs are endearingly referred to as piglets.
If a male pig is castrated as a piglet, he never gets to be a boar but he could certainly be a bore to the sows. In any event, he is known as a barrow.
A young female that has not yet had piglets is called a gilt, which is also a Jewish term for money.
Even the Cambodian cave dwellers are uncertain if there’s a connection between the two, although it does seem a young female pig that has yet to give birth could be a costly prize.
A pig with no hope for the future is simply called bacon.
On the bovine end, I learned early in my New Mexico journalism career there are only two things referred to as a cow. One is a bovine female who has given birth while the other is those huge, wooden animals found at most Ben and Jerry’s ice cream parlors. One can also surely use the term “cow” to refer to anyone, anywhere, as long as they know how to fight.
Otherwise, call them all cattle and hope they come home.
A castrated male is a steer. Unless, of course, he will not travel in a straight line, in which case he is a non-steer.
Cattle that have no future are simply called steak.
With goats it gets a little tricky, since all of them should simply be referred to as adorable. It’s also tricky because Cambodian sources say the traditional term for a non-castrated male, or “billy,” has become politically incorrect. It’s now more polite to refer to an intact male goat as a buck.
To politely refer to the buck’s counterpart, please call her a doe. Her female offspring should be called a doeling while a young male goat will respond nicely to buckling.
Sometimes. Goats live dangerously with minds of their own. When goats go off on tangents, they can hop the fence and play in traffic. In that case, they are sadly referred to as road kill.
Livestock are not the only animals with an array of terminology. Dogs that constantly run away are called “come back heres,” dogs that chew furniture are called “stop thats” and dogs that swim in mucky waters then roll in mud are usually called “stinky.”
When one happens upon a cat, simply refer to it as royalty.
And don’t forget a sow can only be a she.
Ryn Gargulinski writes for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: