[Gr., a·leʹktor; Lat., gallus].
A rooster or male chicken. Due to the widespread domestication of the chicken, the jaunty figure of the cock with its bright-colored plumage, long tail feathers arched over its back, and red wavy fleshlike comb topping its head, with two similar appendages hanging beneath the beak and throat, is a generally familiar sight. From early times it appears to have been prominent in India, Persia and Babylon, and is mentioned by Greek writers of the classical period.
The cock is not mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures and appears in the Christian Greek Scriptures only in connection with its crowing (Gr., a·le·kto·ro·pho·niʹa), as at Mark 13:35, where Jesus shows “cock-crowing” to have marked a definite period of the night. The most frequent references, however, relate to Jesus’ prophecy concerning Peter’s denials of him, fulfilled on the night prior to Jesus’ death and recounted by all four writers of the Gospel accounts. (Matt. 26:34, 74, 75; Mark 14:30, 72; Luke 22:34, 60, 61; John 13:38; 18:27) For a full consideration of these reports see COCKCROW.
While the Jewish Mishnah contains a prohibition against the keeping of domestic fowl by the Jews, due to the probability of their causing ceremonial defilement, Rabbinical sources indicate that they were kept as much by the Jews as by the Romans. An onyx seal bearing the figure of a cock was found near Mizpah and contains the inscription “belonging to Jaazaniah, servant of the king.” If, as some suggest, this Jaazaniah is the one mentioned at 2 Kings 25:23 and Jeremiah 40:8-10, this would indicate the keeping of cocks in Palestine back in the seventh century B.C.E. The figure of a cock has also been found on a sherd of a cooking pot excavated at ancient Gibeon.
The cock was a symbol of watchfulness and may have been used as such on the above-mentioned seal. The Greek name for it is similar to the Greek word aʹle·ktros, meaning “one without a bed” or “the sleepless one.” Among the Romans the third watch of the night was called the gallicinium or “cockcrowing.” Some claim that the prime purpose for keeping such cocks in ancient times was not to provide food but, rather, for their service as natural alarm clocks, rousing men for the day’s activities. The cruel “sport” of cockfighting, however, was popular among the Greeks and Romans for centuries before the Common Era, though nothing indicates its practice in Palestine.