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Car names that bring out the animal

Car names that bring out the animal

Posted by Dale Edward Johnson on Nov 15th 2022

A trip to the zoo might lead to sightings of bobcats, cobras, cougars, rabbits or tigers

Or, you might also see Bobcats, Cobras, Cougars, Rabbits or Tigers if you go to a classic car show or cruise night.

That’s because animals have often been a source of car names.


Greg Gjerdingen, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cougar was introduced in 1967 as Mercury’s version of the Ford Mustang. Mercury ads often invited people to drop in at “the sign of the cat,” with a cougar posing atop a Mercury dealership sign. Mercury later adopted other members of the cat family for model names. For example, Mercury’s version of the sub-compact Ford Pinto of the 1970s and '80s, was called the Bobcat. Mercury stuck with the cat family when it called its version of the Ford Escort, the Lynx. Real lynx are closely related to bobcats. To animal lovers, the bobcat is also known as the wildcat. But as car buffs know, there’s no confusing a Mercury Bobcat with a Buick Wildcat – a name used during the 1960s and 1970s, and currently being used on a Buick concept car. Cougars are related to pumas – and the Puma name was used for a Brazilian-made sportscar first produced in the 1960s.

Lots of other car companies have also used members of the cat family for car names.

One of the longest lasting and most popular names is Jaguar, a name that’s been used since 1936. Jaguar cars have jaguars as hood ornaments.

The name Panther was used on low-production, fibreglass two-seater, made in New York in 1962 and ’63. Panther was also used for a British-made kit car in the 1970s and ’80s, which looked like a Jaguar from the late 1930. The Panther name was later considered for what became the Chevrolet Camaro. The Sunbeam Tiger wasn’t the first car with such a name, as there was a Tiger made from 1914 to 1915.

Members of the cat family are quiet, nimble and sleek – rather flattering terms to describe an automobile.

Ford seems to have a thing for horses, with the most obvious example being the Mustang.

Ford introduced the Jeep-like Bronco for 1966, and recently revived the Bronco name. To horse lovers, bronco can be another name for mustang. The replacement for the compact Falcon was the Maverick, which to ranchers means an unbranded range animal. Maverick can also refer to someone who does not go along with the group, and is an independent thinker. The Maverick has also recently been brought back by Ford for a small pickup truck.


alberto chavez reyez, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Ford’s sub-compact was called the Pinto. Outside automotive circles, a pinto is a horse or pony marked with patches of white and another color. An economy version of the Pinto was called a Pinto Pony. The Pony name was later used by a Hyundai. Dodge put the name Colt on a Mitsubishi model it imported to North America from Japan from the 1970s to the ’90s.

Dog lovers won’t love how auto makers of stayed away from canine names. There are only a few examples. A cycle car with the name of Greyhound was produced from 1914 to 1916. Stutz put out a Bulldog from 1916 to 1918. A small Essex of the 1920s was called the Whippet, named after a dog.


Greg Gjerdingen from Willmar, USA, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

These days, there are no cars named after our canine friends. I guess no one wants to admit they’re driving a dog.

The fox name found its way into the trunk lid of an Audi from 1973 to ’79. The Fox name was revived in 1987 for a Brazilian-made, entry-level Volkswagen.

In the early days of the automotive industry there were limited runs of carsnamed the Baby Moose, Badger, Beaver, Kangaroo and Wolverine.

There have been plenty of fish (Barracuda, Marlin) and fowl (Skylark, Road Runner) names for cars – but they’ll be discussed another time.

The Volkswagen Rabbit, introduced in 1975, was considered to be the replacement for the Beetle.

The Impala name was one of the longest-running car names, first used by Chevrolet in 1958 and last used in 2020. In Africa, impalas are common deer-like animals.


Accord14, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

There have also been the Cobra and Viper, both high-performance cars, with snake images prominently featured as part of their logos.

Naming cars after animals has proven to be extremely successful over the years as a way of conveying messages of speed and power – and the most popular examples come from the cat family and the horse family.