France Explained For Members

Le Coq: The proud bird that is a symbol of France

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Le Coq: The proud bird that is a symbol of France

Proud, cocky and strutting - the rooster is often seen as an arrogant bird and, perhaps not coincidentally, is also an unofficial symbol of France.


Wander around France and you will find le coq (the cockerel) everywhere - in shop signs and logos, on weather vanes and war memorials and in the names of bars and restaurants. 

So how did the barnyard animal become a symbol of France?

As with all long-established traditions, there are various versions of this one, including the similarity in Latin of rooster (gallus) and Gauls (Gallus), a pun adopted by enemies of France to make fun of the French and the adoption of the symbol by Medieval French kings as a symbol of Christianity.


Whatever its roots, the Gallic rooster was pushed as a symbol of France after the revolution of 1789, when the country's new leaders were looking for 'traditional' symbols of France that were unconnected to royalty or the previous regime. 

It featured on the old French franc coins and also tops many war memorials as a symbol of national pride.

In the modern period it is widely used as a symbol of France, especially in business logos and in sports where French national teams display the emblem on their shirts and fans deck themselves in 'coq' regalia along with their tricolore flags.

As France prepares to host the Rugby World Cup the souvenir teddies on sale include a stuffed cockerel in the French colours of red, white and blue.

Official souvenirs for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, hosted in France. Photo: The Local

Le coq remains, however, an unofficial symbol, unlike the country's official motto of liberté, egalité, fraternité which is carved on all public buildings. 

The French state does not use it on official communications, but it is also used in the branding of campaigns, including  'La French Tech' - the government backed initiative to grow France's tech and start-up industries.

French president Emmanuel Macron launching 'la French tech' complete with stylised coq logo. Photo: AFP

It's common to see bars and restaurants include 'coq' in their name - especially Le coq hardi, which means the fighting cock and is also a heraldic term to denote the cockerel included in a coat of arms.

The cockerel has also entered the language more generally - in French to express joy or victory you can say on crie cocorico - we shout cock-a-doodle-do!


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