European Cock-a-doodle-doo

“The cocks may crow, but it’s the hen that lays the egg.”

Margaret Thatcher, 1925.

Cocorico! Kikeriki! Cock-a-doodle-doo! Europeans are so multilingual that even their roosters speak several languages. There is much to be learned from a single animal actually. The rooster makes without doubt exactly the same sound across Europe when it crows. But surprisingly Europeans do not hear the same sound as they listen to him and do not translate it the same way in their onomatopoeias. This leads to this funny list of European cockcrows – completed with fun facts about the importance of roosters in all countries. If you want to hear the pronunciation of each one, just watch this video made by the European Parliament. It is hilarious!

Portugal

Cocorococo 

In the country where the rooster is a national symbol representing wisdom, the rooster crows with a masculine ‘cocorococo’. Speaking of which, the Rooster of Barcelos is one of the most famous Portuguese legends. It tells the story of a rooster’s miraculous intervention in proving the innocence of a man who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death.

Spain

Quiquiriqui 

There are not less than 25 different races of cockerels in Spain, where the word ‘quiquiriqui’ is also used to describe somebody who struts around. During the Spanish Civil War, the Republicans fascists used a black cockerel. They also sang the song “The black rooster” which was also recorded by the Chilean singer Victor Jara as a protest against the military dictatorship in Chile.

France

Cocorico 

The Gallic rooster (“coq gaulois”) is an unofficial national symbol of France. It comes from a play on words in Latin between the word Gallus, for the inhabitants of Gaul, and gallus, meaning rooster. Contrary to Marianne, who embodies France as a Republic State, the Gallic rooster represents France as a nation. This is why the word ‘cocorico’ is sometimes used in French to depict a patriotic performance.

Iceland

Gaggalagaggalagó 

The rooster is more of a warrior type on the remote cold island. It crows with ‘Gaggalagaggalagó’ which resonates in your ears like a scream in a dark winter. On the continent, it would sounds more like an onomatopoeia to imply that the weather is cold. Or it would make a perfect tongue twister to test your pronunciation of the Icelandic language.

Ireland

Cock-a-doodle-doo 

Cock-a-doodle-doo‘ is the way roosters crow in Ireland. Or at least its transcription. But it is also the name a famous play by the Irish dramatist Seán O’Casey called Cock-a-Doodle Dandy. This is a darkly comic fantasy in which a magic cockerel appears in the parish of Nyadnanave and forces the characters to make choices about the way they live their lives.

United Kingdom

Cock-a-doodle-doo 

The origin of the English “Cock a doodle doo” can be found in a popular nursery rhyme whose first full version was recorded in Mother Goose’s Melody, published in London around 1765. The first two lines were used in a murder pamphlet in England, 1606, which seems to suggest that children sang those lines, or very similar ones, to mock cockerels’ crow.

Norway

Kukkeliky 

Norwegian roosters crow like vikings with a strong and vocal ‘Kukkeliky’. The History doesn’t say if Vikings took roosters on their ships to frighten their ennemies – but Asterix may have his own story about how to scare Norwegians. In Norwegian, the word cockerel (“hane”) is also used in slang to refer to men, usually the man in a love relationship

Sweden

Kuckeliku

A 1938 short film of the Silly Symhonies, entitled in English the Farmyard Symphony, was translated as ‘Kuckeliku‘ in Swedish. The highlight is a rooster wooing a white hen, with the other animals joining in until they hear a sound more welcoming to them: the call of feeding time. This is in any case the soft way roosters crow in the elongated country.

Finland

Kukkokeikuu

In the 1960s, there used to be a Finnish music band called Kukonpojat (“The Chikens”). If you’ve never heard a song in Finland, we have what you need here – get ready for a full vintage and somewhat absurd experience. The history doesn’t tell if they wrote this song to imitate the “Kukkokeikuu” cockcrow.

Denmark

Kykeliky

Danes have several sayings about the cockerel, such as “Jeg har en høne at plukke med dig” which means “I have a cockerel to pick with you”. Another one is about common sens: “en fjer kan blive til fem høns” which means “a feather can become five hens”. It is directly inspired from a Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale – no doubt about it! It approximately means that a short story can quickly turn into a longer lie.

Netherlands

Kukeleku 

There is in the Netherlands a famous children’s song called “De haan is dood”(“the han is dead”), and guess what? Its chorus keeps repeating “Kukeleku”. The band performing the song is called Spitfires, and it’s worth watching. And if you want to see the funny dance performed on the tune by two Dutch young girls, click here.

Belgium

Coutcouloudjoû – Kukeleku

The “coq hardi” (bold rooster) is an emblem of the Belgian Wallon region. It features a red bold rooster on a yellow background – bold meaning here that its right leg is lifted and that its mouth is closed (yes, there is a word for that). Those colors come from the city of Liège. It was chosen in 1913 by Pierre Paulus to appear on the flag of Wallonia.

Germany

Kikeriki

Did you know that the cockerel was a sacred bird among some Germanic tribes? There is for instance in Münster a golden sculpture of a cockerel holding a bottle of wine which is proffered to important guests of the city as an honorary goblet. Legend has it that once a Münster councillor donated the golden cockerel after his cockerel, flying into the air, made it clear to the beleaguers of the city under Prince-Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen that it was pointless to wait for the onset of famine.

Austria

Kikeriki

In 1785, the famous composer Josef Haydn wrote the Symphony No. 83, the second of the six so-called Paris Symphonies. This symphony was popularized through the name “The Hen” (in French: “La poule”). The nickname comes from the clucking second subject in the first movement, which reminded listeners of the jerky back-and forth head motion of a walking hen…

Switzerland

Kikeriki – Cocorico – Chicchirichi

In Switzerland, the rooster crows in not less that three different languages. It’s normal, it just copies the inhabitants of its home-country. In 2005, Airesis, a Swiss company bought the famous French sport equipment company called “le Coq Sportif” whose logo is a cockerel. They are perfect shoes to do sport or play lawn games.

Italy

Chicchirichi

Italians have many (hilarious) proverbs about roosters. “Gallo magro e gallina grassa fan buon matrimonio” for “A skinny rooster and a fat hen make together a good marriage”. Or “Quando il gallo canta nel pollaio, aspetta l’acqua nel grondaio” which means “When the cock crows in the henhouse, it is waiting for water to be poured in its gutters”

Malta

Kukuriku 

Maltese rooster used to be a traditional treat served on Christmas Eve, along with a yummy cake. But now, most Maltese families have adopted turkey and plum pudding as Christmas dishes in place… In any case, the Maltese cockcrow “kukuriku” will remind our French readers about the parody song “Stach Stach” by the Bratisla Boys.

Czechia

Ky-ky-ri-ký

In the town of Česká Třebová in Czechia, in old times, a magistrate had the misfortune to lose the seal of the city. Angry residents decided to hang him in punishment. The gallows was erected and the priest accompanied the condemned man to death. But a rooster began to crow and scratched the dunghill on which he stood, revealing the lost seal. Since that time, the cockerel appears on the emblem of the city.

Slovakia

Kikirikí

For a change, the Slovak rooster crows with vowels. It doesn’t make it less masculine anyway. There is a song in Slovakia entitled “O pozdravoch” and performed by Jozef Hudák enumerating all the sounds that animals make in Slovak, including the rooster.

Poland

Kukuryky

The Polish writer Mary Kownacki wrote in 1936 a book collecting short stories for children to teach them personal hygiene, respect, obedience and solutions for common problems. It was entitled “Kukuryku na ręczniku” (Kukuryku on a towel). A big rooster appeared on its cover – probably to impress the naughtiest.

Hungary

Kukuriku

The Hungarian kitchen has plenty of unusual uses of well-known ingredients – poppy seeds on pasta (mákos tészta) anyone? Rooster testicles cooked into a paprika-spiked stew, kakashere pörkölt, is another. It is a regular, if slightly unusual, beloved Hungarian staples. In any case, before being emasculated, the Hungarian rooster crows with “kukuriku”.

Lithuania

Kakariekū

The Cockerel Love Clock in the city of Šiauliai is a popular meeting and dating place. Couples in love or business people agree to meet here: “We’ll meet at the Cockerel”. Now, the city symbol not only crows, but it also greets passers-by: “Welcome to Šiauliai.” The greeting is uttered in not less than 10 languages. It’s much more than its crow which only says “Kakariekū” in Lithuanian. 

Latvia

Kikerigū

The oldest churches in Riga’s Old Town, the ones closest to the River Daugava, have roosters atop their steeples, not crosses. They do not crow, but if they could, they would crow with “Kikerigū“. According to pagan traditions, a rooster’s crowing scares the devil away. In Christian tradition, a rooster symbolises watchfulness and vigilance, and keeping watch out for the Lord.

Estonia

Kikerikii

There is on top of a church in Talinn a Golden Cockerel weather vane which is highly visible and conveniently indicates the direction of the wind. In Mary’s Land, the cockerel’s crow is a bit different than in other countries. It crows with “Kikerikii”. This inspired the name of a famous Estonian TV movie in 1982.

Belarus

Ку-ка-ре-ку (Kou-ka-re-kou)

In the folklore of Belarus, the rooster is a heroic character which always appears to protect weak people. Some have leprechauns or flying unicorns and other fairies. But Belarusian people prefer the down-to-earth and non-pretentious farm animal and they are entirely right! It crows like “Ку-ка-ре-ку” which would read in Latin alphabet “Kou-ka-re-kou“.

Ukraine

Kykypiky

The rooster is a source of inspiration for many artists in Ukraine. There is for instance a children song entitled “The Rooster Is Riding the Horse”, an art-rock band formed in 1989 called the “Dead Rooster”, or even a famous fairy tale entitled “The Cat and the Rooster”. All of these have in common that the Ukrainian rooster crows with a vocal and powerful “Kykypiky“.

Moldova – Romania

Cucurigu

Did you know that Romania had its own breed of roosters? The Naked Neck is a breed of chicken that is naturally devoid of feathers on its neck and vent. It is also called the Transylvanian Naked Neck. Well, they are not particularly beautiful but they are very good foragers and are immune to most diseases! At least… And well, they also crow like any other rooster, but in Romanian, with the sound “Cucurigu“. 

Slovenia

Kikiriki

The Slovenian word “Kikiriki” used to transcribe cockcrows has a totally different meaning than in neighbouring languages. In Serbia and Croatia, it means “peanut” – the word coming etymologically from the Italian chichi (“grains”) and ricchi (“rich”). But in Slovenia, it is the polite way to address roosters…

Croatia

Kukuriku

The Croatian “Kukuriku koalicija“ (in English “cock-a-doodle-doo coalition“) was a political alliance formed after the 2010 elections. It consisted in four centre-left partis in the Parliament. The name was taken from a restaurant of the same name in Kastav, where the leaders of each party first convened in July 2009 (the story doesn’t say what they served at dinner). It became well known, and eventually gave the coalition its official name !

Serbia - Kosovo

Kukuriky

The Kosovo Longcrower is a breed of chicken originating in Kosovo. It developed as a landrace in the area of the Drenica in Kosovo, and thus in the Albanian language it is commonly called Rooster of Drenica. As its name suggests, this breed belongs to the group of long-crowing chicken breeds. Their crow “Kukuriky” averages 20–40 seconds, exceptional birds will go on for 60 seconds! 

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Kukuriky 

The Bosnian word for the cockcrow “Kukuriky” is also surprisingly the name of a small village located in eastern Poland, closed to the border with Belarus. There was recently a story reported in newspapers that, in the village of Hrupjela in Trebinje, a Bosnian rooster started to lay eggs of unusual shape, different sizes and colors…

Albania

Kiki ri ki

You probably already know that Albanians have their favorite bird, but it’s an eagle with two heads, not a rooster. There are plenty of interesting legends about it. It doesn’t impede roosters to crow proudly in the country, but here, rather with a high-pitched voice. We should probably investigate why it crows like that

Bulgaria - North Macedonia

кукурику

The Bulgarian rooster crows with the sound “кукурику”. It remains a bit different to the crows of its neighbours… Literally translated as “foreigner’s land”, the Bulgarian word “кукурику” also means a place situated anywhere outside of one’s own country. The word is used in place of saying any specific region or area.

Greece

Κικιρίκου (kikiríku)

In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the God of Medecine and Healing. The cockerel was one of his traditional attribute, along with the snake. Just choose which creature you prefer – for us, the choice is already made! But in any case, we wouldn’t associate both animals to healthcare or medicine… Asclepius’ rooster even appears at the end of the Plato’s apology.

Turkey

U-urru-urru

At the time of the Ottoman Empire, one of the laws of the kânûn established by Mehmed II (the conqueror of Constantinople) strictly stated that “it [was] forbidden to raise chickens in a mill so that the wheat germ do not suffer damage. We keep no more than one rooster to indicate the hours”. It was no superstition, just sensible rules!

If you liked this article, you may also like European Dog Barking, SneezesSwear Words and Toasts.

Close Menu