The Last Bite | Grapevine Magazine

The Last Bite

By Sharon Harrison

The rooster is considered very important in Chinese culture and is a symbol of honesty and good fortune.  Working on a 12-year cycle, the Chinese lunar calendar depicts a different animal every 12 years; the rooster being tenth in the cycle.  The current Chinese year, deemed the Year of the Rooster, began on January 28, 2017 and will end on February 15, 2018.  The Chinese New Year—sometimes referred to as the Spring Festival—is the biggest and most important festival in the Chinese year usually lasting for two weeks.  The rooster, represented by the Chinese character “ji”, signifies fidelity, protection and luck in Chinese culture.  Feng shui practitioners often favour a representation of the rooster in the home or office for this reason.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the North American noun “rooster” as “a male domestic fowl; a cock”.  The rooster, cock and cockerel refer to the same bird, but the rooster in some countries, notably the United Kingdom, is known as a cock or a cockerel—rooster is most commonly used in North America.  Cockerel generally refers to young male birds less than one year of age.  A rooster by any other name, the male bird belongs to the gallinaceous order of birds which includes turkeys, pheasants and grouse among them.  Roosters are essentially adult male chickens with long flowing black or bronze tail feathers and brightly-coloured body feathers in striking hues of orange, red, yellow, white, and sometimes  iridescent blue and green.  Their plumage is grander and brighter than the female although colouration does vary from breed-to-breed.

The rooster is known for its ear-piercing and sometimes annoyingly-loud dawn crowing of “cock-a-doodle-doo”, which is thought to chase away evil spirits.  The bird is also identifiable by the vivid red coxcomb (or comb) sitting atop its head as well as the red wattle underneath its chin.  These distinctive physical features regulate temperature and help with blood flow, but they are also designed to lure the opposite sex.  Combs are unique to each individual rooster, much like fingerprints are to people, and vary in size and shape depending on the breed.  The brighter and bigger the comb, the more chance a rooster will attract a suitable female for mating.  A dull, small or damaged comb is unappealing to females since it may signify ill health and therefore makes for an unsuitable mate.

Roosters have a lifespan of up to 15 years: they have been around for some 5,000 years and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.  Generally known as a flightless bird, roosters have small wings and can fly a little, although they travel only very short distances, up to 200 feet, mainly due to being body heavy and not very aerodynamic.  Occurring every 12 years, the rooster year applies to those born in the years 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957, 1945, 1933, 1921, and so on.  It will be 2029 before the rooster puts in an appearance again.  For those born in a rooster year, personal qualities may include punctuality, dependability and confidence, and such people may also be considered successful, hardworking,   courageous—and bossy.

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