You may not have consciously thought about this point of grammar for years, but when you were younger, language teachers almost certainly drilled you on it. A noun that designates a specific person, place, or thing is called a proper noun. A noun that designates any and all of a class of persons, places, or things is a common noun. These two noun types differ in their capitalization requirements (Table 7.3). All proper nouns begin with capitals. Common names generally do not (except in special situations such as titles, see below).
Common nouns include chemicals, generic names of medicines, diseases, anatomical parts, or common names derived from the scientific names of plants and animals. When such names include modifiers derived from proper nouns, however, these modifiers are usually capitalized (German measles, Darwinian finches). In the same way, capitalize the significant parts of the name of a manufactured product (Pyrex glass) and the vernacular names of plant varieties (Yellow Dent corn). Capitalize the full names of government agencies, departments, divisions, organizations, and companies (Department of Agriculture, Warner Communications Inc.).
Animal breeds are common nouns. As such, their names should be lower case. However, in a paper mentioning several breeds of animals, capitalizing only modifiers derived from proper nouns gives the page a very uneven appearance. Some writers and editors feel this lack of uniformity in capitalization is undesirable. They capitalize the full names of all breeds as a matter of equality. Be sure to examine a copy of your intended journal choice for examples of their policy.
Uneven capitalization: The affected animals included Virginia deer, golden hamsters, and miniature Irish wolfhounds.
All breeds and species capitalized: The second trial used French Poodles, Maine Coon Cats, and Parakeets.
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