French figures: The proud bird that is a symbol of France

French figures: The proud bird that is a symbol of France
Photo: AFP
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 unconnected to royalty or the previous regime. 

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

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See also on The Local:

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

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 the emblem of many of the country's sports teams and is also used in the branding of many French companies and campaigns.

It has also entered the language – in French to express joy you can say on crie cocorico – we shout cock-a-doodle-do!

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France. 


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