A rooster, also called a cock or chanticleer, is a male chicken (Gallus gallus) with the female being called a hen. Immature male chickens of less than a year's age are called cockerels. The oldest term is "cock," from Old English coc. It is sometimes replaced by the term "cockerel" (which properly refers to a young male chicken) in the United Kingdom, and almost always by "rooster" (a relative neologism) in North America and Australia. "Cock" is in general use as the name for a male of other species of bird, for example "Cock sparrow." "Roosting" is the action of perching aloft to sleep at night, and is done by both sexes. In the United States, "rooster" is preferred due to sexual connotations with the word "cock". The rooster is polygamous, but cannot guard several nests of eggs at once. He guards the general area where his hens are nesting, and will attack other roosters who enter his territory. During the daytime, he often sits on a high perch, usually 4–5 feet off the ground to serve as a lookout for his flock. He will sound a distinctive alarm call if predators are nearby.
The rooster is often portrayed as crowing at the break of dawn and will almost always start crowing before 4 months of age. He can often be seen sitting on fence posts or other objects, where he crows to proclaim his territory.
However, this idea is more romantic than real, as a rooster can and will crow at any time of the day. Some roosters are especially vociferous, crowing almost constantly, while others only crow a few times a day. These differences are dependent both upon the cock's breed and individual personality.
He has several other calls as well, and can cluck, similar to the hen. Roosters will occasionally make a patterned series of clucks to attract hens to a source of food, the same way a mother hen does for her chicks.
A capon is a castrated rooster. Unlike most other male birds, roosters have a small penis to facilitate mating. In the caponization procedure, the bird's testes are completely removed; a surgical procedure is required for this as the rooster's sexual organs are internal. As a result of this procedure, certain male physical characteristics will experience stunted development:
- The comb and wattles cease growing after castration, giving a capon's head a dwarfed appearance.
- The hackle, tail and saddle feathers grow unusually long.
Caponization also affects the disposition of the bird. Removal of the bird's testes eliminates the male sex hormones, lessening the male sex instincts and changing their behaviour: the birds become more docile and less active and tend not to fight.
This procedure produces a unique type of poultry meat which is favoured by a specialized market. The meat of normal uncastrated roosters has a tendency to become coarse, stringy and tough as the birds age. This process does not occur in the capon. As caponized roosters grow more slowly than intact males they accumulate more body fat; the concentration of fat in both the light and dark areas of the capon meat is greater than in that of the uncastrated males; overall, it is often thought that capon meat is more tender, juicy, and flavorful than regular chicken.
In China, the Yangbi Huang breed can grow to be the largest rooster in the Asian continent, up to 35 cm long. This is thought to be caused by the castration of the roosters practised by farmers in Northern China, which affects the hormonal balance.
A cockfight is a contest held in a ring called a cockpit between two gamecocks. Gamecocks are not typical farm chickens. The roosters are specially bred and trained for increased stamina and strength. The comb and wattle is cut off of a young gamecock because if left intact, it would be a disadvantage during a match. This process is called "dubbing." Sometimes the roosters are given drugs to increase their stamina or thicken their blood, which increases their chances of winning. Cockfighting is considered a traditional sporting event by some, and an example of animal cruelty by others and is therefore outlawed in most countries. Usually wagers are made on the outcome of the match, with the surviving or last-bird-standing being declared the winner.
The cockerel "Waltz," when the cockerel struts in a half circle with one wing extended down, is an aggressive approach signifying to females his dominance, and usually, the female will submit by running or moving away from the cockerel in acknowledgement. On rare occasions, the hen will attempt to fight the cockerel for dominance. Once dominance is established, the cockerel will rarely waltz again. When other cockerels are in the hen yard, this waltz is used significantly more and most cockerels will waltz together if dominance has not been established, and either, one will back off or the two cockerels will fight. Note also that the cockerel will waltz again if he is taken out of the pen for a period, usually 24 hrs, and put back.
Some cockerels that are more aggressive, will drop and extend both wings and puff out all their body feathers to give the hens and/or other roosters the impression of a larger size, and charge through the hen yard like a bull.
The cockerel was already of symbolic importance in Gaul at the time of the invasion of Julius Caesar and was associated with the god Lugus. Today it is an emblem of France and Wallonia and Denizli.
The fighting cockerel on a ball is the symbol for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. The cockerel wears a pair of spurs which is a reference to the club's nickname. It has been present on their crest and shield since 1901. Additionally, the cockerel is the emblem of Turkish sports club Denizlispor, which was founded in 1966. Also, the supporters of the club are called cockerels.
- ↑ "CNN.com - Should cockfighting be outlawed in Oklahoma? - Nov. 26, 2002". Archives.cnn.com. http://archives.cnn.com/2002/ALLPOLITICS/11/26/cf.opinion.cockfighting/index.html. Retrieved 2009-08-17.
- Smith, P. The Chicken Book, North Point Press, 1982, passim.