Ever wondered, why are peacocks called peacocks?
I know I have.
So, I decided to do some research, ask around, and find out everything about the origins and history of peacocks - and this is what I found:
Table of Contents
Understanding the Difference Between Peafowl and Peacocks
First things first, let's understand the difference between peacocks and peafowl.
This comes as a surprise to many, but peacocks are actually male peafowl.
That's right, male peafowls are called peacocks, while female peafowls are called peahens.
Most people think the word 'peacock' is used for the species of bird that has that magnificent display of tail feathers.
So, don't be too hard on yourself if you thought that too, it's really a widespread misconception.
But, now you know the difference.
Why Are Peacocks Called Peacocks?
Back on to the main question, so why are peacocks called peacocks?
According to Ancestry.com and some other reliable sources, peacocks were originally called 'pe', 'pa', and 'po' in Middle English.
There is also some evidence that they were also starting to be called 'pokok' and 'pocock' over time.
The addition of the 'cok' part came later as that was already being used for male birds at the time so I can see how it made sense to add that to the end.
As with a lot of words that can be traced back hundreds, or even thousands of years, it's not uncommon for the spelling to change slightly over the years, especially when translated and used across different languages.
What Are Peacocks Really Called?
For further clarification, peacocks are really called peacocks.
It's the females, which are called peahens, that are different. But both peahens and peacocks are peafowls.
This is similar to chickens. Adult male chickens are called roosters, while adult female chickens are called hens.
How to Tell Peacocks Apart from Peahens
Now that we know the difference between peacocks and peahens in terminology, let's take a look at how to tell them apart physically.
The easiest way to do this is by looking at their tails.
Peacocks have much longer and more colorful tails than peahens. Peacocks are the ones that we all know, they have those iconic large, iridescent tail feathers with shades of green, brown, blue, and yellow.
While, on the other side, peahens have very bland and much shorter tails.
A peahen's tail feathers are brown and beige, and although they can spread them out and shake their tails as a peacock does, it's nowhere as near as spectacular.
Peacocks, much like most males, also tend to be much larger in size than peahens.
A peacock can grow up to be about five feet tall, whereas a peahen only grows to be about three feet tall.
Another way to tell them apart is by their call. Peacocks make a loud, high-pitched noise that sounds like 'may-ak', whereas peahens make a much softer sound that's more like 'keowr'.
But, if you're still unsure, the safest bet is to just look at their tails. If it's long and colorful - it's a peacock. Short and dull - it's a peahen.
What Is so Special About a Peacock?
Peacocks are steeped in history and surrounded by a certain air of mystery and spirituality.
The main reason for this is because their tails are absolutely stunning.
A peacock's tail feathers can grow up to six feet long and they typically have around 150 tail feathers.
These feathers are not only incredibly beautiful but also very useful. They help the peacock attract mates and intimidate predators.
The peacock is also the national bird of India and has been revered in Hindu mythology for centuries.
In some ancient texts, the peacock is even said to be a symbol of immortality.
There is no question that peacocks are very special creatures that have been around for a long time.
They are unique and beautiful creatures that have a lot to offer!
But one tip - if you're fortunate enough to get close to one when they're spreading and shaking their tail feathers, you can count yourself lucky - but try not to get too close!
It's often a sign that a peacock is feeling threatened when they're displaying their tails, and that perceived predator might just be you.
So, there you have it!
Now you know why peacocks are called peacocks and can impress your friends with your new-found knowledge.
If you were not already impressed by peacocks, I hope you also have a newfound respect and awe for these amazing and beautiful creatures!
Image credits - Photo by Sagar Kulkarni on Unsplash