• 15 Different Oddball Names for a Pumpjack

Fuel for Thought

15 Different Oddball Names for a Pumpjack

Sep 28 2014

Over its near 90 year history, the pumpjack has adopted many different guises. If you’re not familiar with pumpjacks, head over to this article first: What is a Pumpjack? Back in 1925, when the first basic design was put together by Walter C. Trout, the inventor himself commented that “it was such a funny looking, odd thing that it was subject to ridicule and criticism”. It’s certainly a telling quote - a sentiment reflected in the numerous oddball names the contraption would soon be given.

The first pumpjack structure was installed at an oilfield near Hull, Texas. Since then, it has become something of an unwitting icon of the oilfield landscape, especially in America where it is a common sight in oil-rich States. But despite its well-known presence, or perhaps even because of it, the pumpjack is bestowed a different name from person to person - each as interesting and entertaining as the next.

Don’t believe us? Here are 15 different oddball names for a pumpjack.

  1. Donkey
  2. Nodding donkey
  3. Grasshopper pump
  4. Horsehead
  5. Thirsty bird
  6. Beam pump
  7. Rocking horse
  8. Big Texan
  9. Oil horse
  10. Dinosaur
  11. Jack pump
  12. Sucker rod pump (SRP)
  13. Pumping unit
  14. Donkey pumper
  15. Oil bird

How can one structure have so many names?

So, where do all of these names come from? There’s no single obvious answer, but we can certainly speculate some of the reasons.

Many names for a pumpjack, such as ‘horsehead’, refer to its looks - describing the hammer-style beam that is a crucial, unmissable part of its design. Using animals as inspiration is not a one-off incident either. Grasshopper, horse, donkey, bird, and dinosaur are all used - injecting a little fun and borderline affection into the naming of a pumpjack.

Some names, such as ‘Big Texan’, are locational - which is hardly surprising given its prevalence in certain states. Others are simply a straightforward description of what it actually does - jack pump and sucker rod pump a case in point.

But perhaps the biggest inspiration for the naming of the pumpjack comes from the way it moves - ‘rocking’, ‘nodding’, and ‘thirsty bird’. The fact that the pumpjack’s relentless bobbing motion has inspired so many names is hardly surprising. One look at this video - a compilation of many different pumpjacks in action - shows how they are almost hypnotic in motion. 

No matter what a pumpjack is named, one thing’s for sure - it has won its place as a personality of the oil fields. It has even inspired some interesting art projects - turning city-based jacks into living urban monuments. Love them or hate them, the pumpjack is such a feature of some states and countries that it holds an almost folkloric status. And as for the future, we suspect we have not seen the last of the pumpjack’s oddball naming tradition.

If you have another name for a pumpjack, we want to hear from you in the comments section. 


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