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Related to peacock: Pavo cristatus




large bird of the genus Pavo, in the pheasantpheasant,
common name for some members of a family (Phasianidae) of henlike birds related to the grouse and including the Old World partridge, the peacock, various domestic and jungle fowls, and the true pheasants (genus Phasianus).
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 family, native to E Asia. There are two main species, the common (Pavo cristatus), and the Javanese (P. musticus) peacocks, both found in deep forest where they travel in small flocks. A third type, the Congo peacock, was discovered recently in Africa. Unusual peacocks are the Argus pheasant, with eyelike spots on its secondary flight feathers, and the white peacock, thought to be a mutation of the common peafowl. When the term peafowl is used, peacock then refers to the male of a species and peahen to the female. During courtship the crested male common peacock displays his elongated upper tail coverts—a magnificent green and gold erectile train adorned with blue-green "eyes"—before the duller-plumaged peahen. The peacock is well known as an ornamental bird, though it is quarrelsome and does not mix well with other domestic animals. The peacock figures in the Bible and in Greek and Roman myth, where it appears as the favorite bird of the goddess Hera, or Juno, and the bird was known to the pharaohs of Egypt and to 14th-century Europe, where it was roasted and served in its own plumage. Peafowl fly well despite their size, and roost in trees at night. Peacocks are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Galliformes, family Phasianidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


The peacock, or male peafowl, is known in many lands as one of the most beautiful and exotic of all birds. Its train of long, shiny blue, green, and brown tail feathers can reach lengths of up to six feet. Its chest feathers startle the eye with their unusual, metallic shade of blue. Originally native to India, Sri Lanka, and Java, the bird is now found in zoos and gardens throughout the world. Traders brought this magnificent bird to the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea during ancient times. The ancient Romans adopted the bird as a symbol of the immortality bestowed upon the empress after her death. The early Christians in their turn viewed the peacock as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ as well as the immortality of his followers.

The Peacock in Ancient Greece and Rome

The ancient Greeks declared the peacock sacred to the goddess Hera, the queen of all the gods. The Romans later claimed the bird as an emblem of the goddess Juno, Hera's Roman counterpart. The bird also came to stand for the apotheosis of the Roman empress after her death, that is, her transformation into an immortal goddess. (The emperor's apotheosis was symbolized by an eagle). When an empress died a peacock was released from the bonfire in which her body was to be burnt, symbolizing her transformation into a goddess. Peacocks can be found on Roman funeral art, an assertion that the dead rose again to eternal life.

The Peacock as a Jewish and Christian Symbol

The ancient Hebrews also used the peacock in their religious art. Although its exact meaning remains uncertain, experts suspect that the ancient Jews saw the peacock as a symbol of the afterlife.

Folklore dating back to ancient times asserted that the flesh of the peacock was not susceptible to decay, like that of all other animals. It was also widely believed that the bird yearly shed its gorgeous tail feathers, only to gain an even more brilliant train of feathers for the coming year. This folklore led the early Christians to adopt the peacock for their religious art. The yearly renewal of its feathers and the supposed preservation of its flesh made it a natural symbol of the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. The early Christians depicted the peacock in the Roman catacombs, the underground vaults where they buried their dead. The bird is also frequently represented in Byzantine church art.

This aura of sacredness clung to the peacock until the Middle Ages. In that era knights and squires took their oaths on the king's peacock. Indeed, "By the peacock" was a common exclamation in those days. Still today, when the pope rides in his processional chair, as he does on Easter Sunday, he is flanked by two chamberlains, carrying great fans of ostrich feathers onto which have been added the tips of peacock feathers.

Christian artists have also used the peacock and its feathers as an emblem of the glories of heaven. Sometime artists depicted angels with peacock feathers in their wings. The round "eye spots" in the bird's tail feathers have also been interpreted as the all-seeing eyes of the church.

Further Reading

Evans, E. P. Animal Symbolism in Ecclesiastical Architecture. 1896. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1969. Hulme, F. Edward. The History, Principles and Practice of Symbolism in Chris- tian Art. 1891. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1969. Ingersoll, Ernest. Birds in Legend, Fable and Folklore. 1923. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Singing Tree Press, 1968. Knapp, Justina. Christian Symbols and How to Use Them. 1935. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1974. Lord, Priscilla Sawyer, and Daniel J. Foley. Easter Garland. 1963. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1999. Møller-Christensen, V., and K. E. Jordt Jørgensen. Encyclopedia of Bible Crea- tures. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press, 1965. Webber, F. R. Church Symbolism. 1938. Second edition, revised. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1992.
Encyclopedia of Easter, Carnival, and Lent, 1st ed. © Omnigraphics, Inc. 2002

What does it mean when you dream about a peacock?

A beautiful bird of exquisite color and grace that seems to strut with pride and even with arrogance, the peacock may indicate that the dreamer is as “proud as a peacock” about some accomplishment and would like to “show off.”

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


conceit personified. [Animal Symbolism: Hall, 239]
See: Vanity
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a male peafowl, having a crested head and a very large fanlike tail marked with blue and green eyelike spots
2. another name for peafowl


Thomas Love. 1785--1866, English novelist and poet, noted for his satirical romances, including Headlong Hall (1816) and Nightmare Abbey (1818)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


We have all heard the expression “as proud as a peacock.” Dreaming about this bird may be a symbolic conveying of beauty and pride. We all know that some pride may be a good thing, but too much pride is not so good. Consider all of the details of your dream and try to understand the message. Is the peacock in your dream beautiful and proud, yet unassuming, or is he noisily flaunting his beauty to all that are willing to look?
Bedside Dream Dictionary by Silvana Amar Copyright © 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
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