Why Cuccos Aren’t Called “Chickens” In The Legend of Zelda

Paula Dean With Link's Head Rides A KFC Double Down sandwich as a Cucco flies through the air

Why the cluck aren’t they called chickens?!


Kyoto, Japan – The Legend of Zelda – a series that makes no sense.

The land of Hyrule is constantly grief-stricken by the same basic evil force every game, a small boy is the land’s only hope, and there’s 3 separate timelines, because Nintendo apparently doesn’t understand what structured story-telling is (or it just wants to milk the rabid Zelda fan-base).

Why else would Nintendo try to tie together a series that, until recently, featured story structure variations from game to game in a nearly incomprehensible way? Surely, it wasn’t to cleverly sneak in a generous number of sales in a niche that it doesn’t even belong in (looking at you, Hyrule Historia).

Hyrule Historia
“Cha-ching! $$$$$”

This game is so confusing, that of all things – chickens – are the toughest opponent you’ll face in practically every game in the series.

Dangerous chicken
“Clucked and loaded”

Chickens?

Sorry, the proper term is “cucco”, and any devout Legend of Zelda fan will make sure to remind you of that fact if you pull the chicken card in their presence. But why cucco? I mean, if it walks like a chicken, talks like a chicken, then it’s a chicken, right?

According to the Zeldapedia Wiki, cuccos are not related to the real life bird, Cuckoo, but in fact, a deformation of the word cock. As the Zeldapedia puts it, “[it’s the] Hylian word for chicken”. The Hylian language appears to span across the series, thus offering consistency and basis to the argument, but perhaps it’s something deeper; something more ominous.

Stormy Skies
“Dun dun DUUUUNNN”

As it just so happens, chicken-slinging giant, Colonel Sanders – along with all 11 secret herbs and spices – turned out to be a big Zelda fan.

Moved and inspired by the original Legend of Zelda games, he set off to Japan to meet with Nintendo. His love for chickens was so strong, he wanted to convince Nintendo to feature his favorite animal in his favorite game franchise. Incidentally, when he renamed his company from “Kentucky Fried Chicken” to “KFC” in 1991, he also became the sole global trademark holder of the word “chicken”, along with the commercial use of the animal (Mr. Sanders means business).

While his meeting with Nintendo remained pleasant, and the boys at Nintendo generally enjoyed the idea of adding chickens into the game as a nod to their newfound friendship, they sensed something strange about the Colonel; particularly, his excitement over the whole endeavor.

I mean, no person can seriously love chickens that much.

Ed Chicken Lover
“I stand correctED”

Before the plans could be implemented into the game, Nintendo and company discovered that the Colonel had ulterior motives for pitching the chicken idea, the most notable being his attempt to include Nintendo’s Zelda franchise in future marketing campaigns.

Nintendo followed up by kindly declining the colonel’s offer, which greatly angered Sanders. Sanders redacted his chicken idea, and threatened to sue Nintendo if they chose to proceed with the incorporation of chickens into the game. The Colonel informed the gaming giant that he was the sole trademark holder for the word chicken, and including the animals in their game, without his permission, was grounds for legal action.

Maybe it was Sega’s attitude rubbing off on Nintendo, or perhaps someone brought in a batch of 1-UP mushrooms to work that week. Whatever it was, Nintendo president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was feeling cocky (no pun intended).

He ordered the Zelda team to proceed with the chickening of the new Zelda game, expressing desire to make the chickens ‘immortal’, and coining the name “cucco” as the entity’s name. Both properties that put chickens and “cuccos” in classes of their own, were carefully calculated stabs at Mr. Sanders (you can’t fry a chicken you can’t kill).

In the end, it worked out well for Nintendo.

Ultimately realizing he lost, Sanders retreated to his pasture in Kentucky with his wife, 3 kids, and 18 dozen of his closest chicken friends, never to be heard from again. Meanwhile, some 30 years later, Zelda fanboys still ravenously defend Nintendo and their goofy KFC-inspired Japanese chickens.

Well played Nintendo. Well played.

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About the Author: Brett Branchson

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