Q. Hi there! Does Chicago style capitalize animal breeds such as “pit bull” and “goldendoodle”? Thanks in advance!
A. For the common names of animals (as opposed to the binomial scientific name, in which the genus is always capitalized: e.g., Canis familiaris, for the domestic dog), you can usually limit capitalization to any proper nouns and adjectives that are part of the name (see CMOS 8.128). But check Merriam-Webster for exceptions, because the names of some breeds may be capitalized.
Merriam-Webster lists “pit bull” but “goldendoodle or Goldendoodle”; in the case of such equal variants (which M-W separates with “or”), Chicago recommends choosing the first-listed one, so you can write “goldendoodle.”
Professional organizations typically capitalize the names of officially recognized breeds—including the goldendoodle (a cross between a golden retriever and a poodle) and, for example, the American pit bull terrier (a specific breed of the pit bull type)—and some writers copy this usage (i.e., American Pit Bull Terrier), but unless it’s the first-listed form in M-W, it’s not Chicago style.
The choice won’t always be so clear. For example, another poodle hybrid, the labradoodle, is listed as “often capitalized” in M-W. The first part of the name is borrowed from the Labrador retriever, which in turn derives its name from the Canadian region that lends its name to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. You could defend a preference for “Labradoodle,” then, on the principle that it’s derived from a proper name.