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Why Do Weathervanes Have Roosters on Them?

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These days, weathervanes are adorned with any manner of decoration from whales and wagons to witches and wine bottles, but at the height of popularity many moons ago there was only one thing approved to sit atop the gust-driven ornament – the rooster.

Holy Influence

There was a little more flexibility in pre-Christian Rome and among the Vikings in Northern Europe with weathervane adornment, but sometime around the ninth century the Catholic Church declared the rooster to be the cock of the walk, so to speak, when it came to semi-functional wind indicators.

Before you knew it every church steeple from Bucharest to Barcelona and beyond was sporting a rooster – or a cockerel, as the church elders called it. It was said to be filled with holy symbolism and there are Bible verses to back up the claim, but other scholars suggest that the tradition of weather-prognosticating poultry started long before the Holy Roman Empire weighed in on the subject.

Vane Beginnings

There’s some evidence to support that theory of those older origins, but we know that the earliest weathervanes (vane being Old English for “flag” or “banner”) came in the form of simple strings or lengths of cloth tied to a stick and set atop a high point. Perhaps ironically, it’s these types of on-field indicators that aviation professionals prefer … in the form of windsocks.

Of course, airfield operators were not the first to have a need to know which way the wind was blowing. No, sir! Military strategists and battlefield commanders of yore used pennants to gauge the wind so as to gain better accuracy for their archers and artillerymen.

American Wind

The church’s edict was enough to propel the tradition to the New World, but it wasn’t long before free-thinking Americans decided weathervane decoration deserved a touch of creativity that extended beyond livestock. George Washington notably installed a “peace dove” weathervane at Mt. Vernon (which still works to this day), while Paul Revere went with a codfish.

ATGStores.com hopes the winds of fortune blow your way, rooster or no rooster.

This American-made weathervane from Whitehall Products features a full-bodied rooster and comes in three different finishes: copper, gold-bronze and verdigris. 

Good Directions weathervanes are crafted of brass and copper and will not rust, although the copper will take on a lovely patina over time.

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