The Gamecock Rooster: National Symbol of France


– Gameness til the End

France Symbols

National Emblem: The Gallic Rooster decorated French flags during the Revolution, and since 1848, the rooster has been seen on the seal of the Republic. It was used from 1899 as a motif on gold 20 franc coins and it occasionally appears on stamps.

A common and traditional symbol of the French people is the Gallic rooster. Its origins date back to Antiquity, since the Latin word Gallus meant both “rooster” and “inhabitant of Gaul”. Then this figure gradually became the most widely shared representation of the French, used by French monarchs, then by the Revolution and under the successive republican regimes as representation of the national identity, used for some stamps and coins.

Gallic rooster

The Gallic rooster (French: le coq gaulois) is an unofficial national symbol of France as a nation, as opposed to Marianne representing France as a State, and its values: the Republic. The rooster is also the symbol of the Wallonia region and the French Community of Belgium. Other heraldic animal officially used by the French nation includes the French Imperial Eagle, symbol of the First French Empire under Napoleon I.

Gallic rooster on the garden gate of the Palais de l’Elysée in Paris,
the official residence of the President of the French Republic.


During the times of Ancient Rome, Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, noticed that, in Latin, rooster (gallus) and Gauls (Gallus) were homonyms. However the association of the Gallic rooster as a national symbol is apocryphal, as the rooster was neither regarded as a national personification nor as a sacred animal by the Gauls in their mythology and because there was no “Gallic nation” at the time, but a loose confederation of Gallic nations instead. But a closer review within that religious scheme tells us that “Mercury” was often portrayed with the cock a sacred animal among the Continental Celts. Julius Caesar in De Bello Gallico identified some gods worshipped in Gaul by using the names of their nearest Roman god rather than their Gaulish name, with Caesar saying “Mercury” was the god most revered in Gaul. The Irish god Lug identified as samildánach led to the widespread identification of Caesar’s Mercury as Lugus and thus also a sacred cock, the Gallic rooster, an emblem of France.

Its association with France dates back from the Middle Age and is due to the play on words in Latin between Gallus, meaning an inhabitant of Gaul, and gallus, meaning rooster, or cockerel. Its use, by the enemies of France, dates to this period, originally a pun to make fun of the French, the association between the rooster and the Gauls/French was developed by the kings of France for the strong Christian symbol that the rooster represents : prior to being arrested, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed on the following morning. At the rooster’s crowing, Peter remembered Jesus’s words. Its crowing at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the daily victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil. It is also an emblem of the Christian’s attitude of watchfulness and readiness for the sudden return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of humankind. That is why, during the Renaissance, the rooster became a symbol of France as a Catholic state and became a popular Christian image on weathervanes, also known as weathercocks.

The popularity of the Gallic rooster as a national personification faded away until its resurgence during the French Revolution (1789). The republican historiography completely modified the traditional perception of the origins of France. Until then, the royal historiography dated the origins of France back to the baptism of Clovis I in 496, the “first Christian king of France”. The republicans rejected this royalist and Christian origin of the country and will trace back the origins of France to the ancient Gaul. Although purely apocryphal, the rooster became the personification of the early inhabitants of France, the Gauls.

The Gallic rooster, colloquially named Chanteclair, had been a national emblem ever since, especially during the Third French Republic. The rooster was featured on the reverse of French 20-franc gold pieces from 1899 to 1914. After World War I it was depicted on uncountable war memorials.

Today, it is often used as a national mascot, particularly in sporting events such as football (soccer) and rugby. The 1998 FIFA World Cup, hosted by France, adopted a rooster named Footix as mascot. The French national Australian rules football team in the 2008 Australian Football International Cup is known as the Coqs after le coq gaulois. Additionally, the France national rugby league team are known as the Chanteclairs referring to the cockerel’s song.

The popularity of the symbol extends into business. Le Coq Sportif (“The athletic rooster”), is a French manufacturer of sports equipment using a stylized rooster and the colors of the French tricolour as its logo. Moreover, it is the logo of Pathé, a French-born, now international company of film production and distribution.


In 1913, the Gallic rooster was adopted as the symbol of Walloon movement. It represents a “bold rooster” (le coq hardi), raising its claws, instead of the “singing rooster” that is traditionally depicted in France. This symbol, also known as the Walloon rooster, was officially adopted as the symbol of Wallonia (in 1998) and the French Community of Belgium (in 1991).

The Walloon rooster.


In France and Wallonia, the French onomatopeia for the rooster crowing sound, “Cocorico” (cock-a-doodle-doo), is sometimes used to express national pride.

The Gallic Rooster

Published on November 29, 2007
Embassy of France in Washington

One of the national emblems of France, the Coq Gaulois (the Gallic Rooster) decorated French flags during the Revolution. It is the symbol of the French people because of the play on words of the Latin gallus meaning Gaul and gallus meaning coq, or rooster.

The rooster has been used as an ornament on church bell towers in France since the early Middle Ages, but at that time it was probably used to symbolize vigilance as roosters are known to crow at the expectation of the sunrise. The Gallic Rooster has been used for centuries by folk artists as a decorative motif on ceramics or carved and veneered wooden furniture.

The rooster played an important role as the revolutionary symbol, but it would become an official emblem under the July Monarchy and the Second Republic when it was seen on the pole of regiments’ flags. In 1830, the “Gallic Rooster” replaced the fleur-de-lis as the national emblem, and it was again discarded by Napoleon III.

Since 1848, the rooster has been seen on the seal of the Republic (Liberty is seated on a rudder decorated by a rooster); it was used from 1899 as a motif on gold 20 franc coins and it occasionally appears on stamps.

French National Symbols: The Cockerel (rooster)

The Cock (US Rooster), a Christian symbol of vigilance since the New Testament story of the Passion, had long been part of French national culture, largely because the Latin words for cock and inhabitant of Gaul are similar (Gallus v gallicus).

In the Middle Ages it was widely depicted in French churches and is recorded in 14th century Germany in references to France.  Chaucer’s vain, foolish and boastful character Chantecleer in the Canterbury Tales may have been recognised by his readership as refering to the French national character.  From the 16th century onwards representations of a cockerel occasionally accompanied the King of France on coins – it appears on the coins struck under both the Valois and Bourbon kings.

The French Cock

The French Revolution gave wider currency to the emblem: it appeared on the Seal of the Premier Consul, and surmounted the staff carried by the allegorical figure of Fraternité.  It was an official emblem under the July Monarchy and the Second Republic when it was used on the poles of regimental flags. Napolean was not so keen it.  When a commission of Councillors of State proposed it as an emblem of France, the Emperor rejected it on the grounds that: “the cockerel has no strength; in no way can it stand as the image of an empire such as France.”  He replaced it by a more appropriate eagle. It returned to favour from 1830 onwards.  Under an an ordinance of July 30, 1830, the Gallic cock figured on the buttons of the uniforms of the National Guard and surmounted their colours.  It replaced the fleur-de-lis as the national emblem. In 1848 it featured on the the Great Seal of France (The Official Seal of the French Republic) – as it still does – depicted on a ship’s rudder next to the figure of Liberty.

Napoleon III viewed the cockerel with disfavour, but it virtually became an official symbol of the Third Republic: the gates of the Elysée Palace, erected at the end of the 19th century, feature a cockerel.  So did the 20 frank gold coin struck in 1898, and one appears more prominently on another 20 franc coin minted in 1904.

1898 French Gold Coin featuring a cockeral.

1904 French Gold Coin featuring a cockeral as well as the French Motto

During word war I, the French cockerel was often represented standing in opposition to the German Imperial eagle.  The cockerel still features on the Seal of State, which dates back to the Second Republic: a cockerel stands on the helm held by the seated figure of Liberty.  The Cockerel is now used mainly in two specialised contexts: national sports teams and to denote military valour (for example on memorials to those who died in the Great War).

The cockerel is one of the gererally recognised symbols of sovereignty not mentioned in article 2 of the French Constitution of 1958, which refers only to le drapeau tricolore, bleu, blanc, rouge: The French Flag , L’hymne national, the national anthem, The Marseillaise and La devise de la République; the motto . “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”.

History of Le Coq

The Gallic Rooster (Coq Gaulois), or cockerel, is the French national emblem, as symbolic as the stylised French Lily. From the very roots of French history, the Latin word Gallus means both “rooster” and “inhabitant of Gaul”. The French rooster emblem adorned the French flag during the revolution. With the success of the Revolution in 1848, the rooster was made part of the seal of the Republic. In 1899, it was imbossed on a more widespread device, the French 20 franc gold coins. The Coq Gaulois has often been the symbol on French stamps over the years, although now (in 2006) the generic French stamp depicts a stylised “Marianne”.

poultry gamefowl chicken gamecock

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.