Key West – An Island Under the Rule of the Rooster

Toledo has its scrawny street cats, and Key West, as I found out this week, is overrun with resplendent roosters. The reason they have taken over the island has something to do with Cubans, who arrived on the island in their droves in the mid-1800s, being partial to cockfights. But after these spectacles were outlawed back in the 1970s, the chooks were duly booted out into the streets – now talk about a fowl unemployment crisis!

There are thousands of them roaming the isle, scratching a living together. Public opinion on the “Key West Gypsy Chickens”, as the breed is officially referred to, is sharply divided – some love these colourful and resilient characters, others are twitching to have them all culled. But the upshot is that they are protected, and people who are not nice to them are prosecuted, as you can see in this news item I spotted in the Key West Citizen on 18 Jan 2013:

Key West Rooster Crime

It has to be said, the males of the species are handsome little devils. (See below, NOT above!!)

Key West Rooster

And it’s not only live roosters that are omnipresent – they’ve spawned a whole genre of idiosyncratic Key West art and, of course, merchandising.

Rooster Finials

Roosters as faithful gatekeepers

A fetching tranny rooster luring passers-by into a gallery

A fetching tranny rooster luring passers-by into a gallery

Key West Rooster Paintings

Rooster Advertising

This one was striking enough to land a major advertising contract

A stuffed specimen overseeing proceedings at a local outdoor café

A stuffed specimen overseeing proceedings at a local outdoor café

Rooster-shaped popsicles begging to be shoved into the mouths of babes

Rooster-shaped popsicles begging to be shoved into the mouths of babes

And while the boys are strutting about town getting five-figure modelling contracts, the drab clucking females are dutifully raising the next generation.

Key West Broody Hen

Note one chick poking out from under her behind, and two little feet sticking out at the front. She has five chicks altogether.

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