What is the difference between a cockatrice and a basilisk?

I have heard both described as a chicken's egg hatched under a toad, and that both are snake-like animals, and that both will turn you to stone if you look at them. Are they the same thing?

4 Answers 4


My answer might not completely answer your question, but atleast would partially answer it. Some differences are as follows:

  1. The cockatrice is dragon-like creature, or in short it is a dragon. However, the basilisk is a pure serpent, an have nothing to do with the dragon species.
  2. The cockatrice can fly with the wings it has on it's back. But, a basilisk can't. The main reason being the point above.
  3. Killing abilities: The cockatrice can kill it's enemy by breathing fire and touching them. The basilisk, however has only two modes. It is by either through it's death stare or like a regular snake attack (through it's poisoned fangs.)

And the main difference is the way it is born:

Your interpretation:

I have heard both described as a chicken's egg hatched under a toad

is wrong. This is how both of them are born:

The basilisk is hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or toad.

The cockatrice is hatched from a cockerel's "egg" incubated by a serpent or toad.

Sometimes, both of them are also considered as same. For instance, in this article from the Bullfinch's mythology:



There is an old saying that “everything has its enemy” – and the cockatrice quailed before the weasel. The basilisk might look daggers, the weasel cared not, but advanced boldly to the conflict. When bitten, the weasel retired for a moment to eat some rue, which was the only plant the basilisks could not wither, returned with renewed strength and soundness to the charge, and never left the enemy till he was stretched dead on the plain. The monster, too, as if conscious of the irregular way in which he came into the world, was supposed to have a great antipathy to a cock; and well he might, for as soon as he heard the cock crow he expired.


Wikipedia page on Basilisk

Wikipedia page on Cockatrice

Isodore of Seville (About the Basilisk)

  • 1
    Do give sources please
    – bleh
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 13:51
  • 4
    Should be noted that dragons are serpents, and not a separate "species". Up until a couple hundred years ago, any large snakes would be called "dragon" in English, the mythical one just accumulating more fantastical traits.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:14

Cockatrice ————— Always depicted as a large rooster has the ability to fly spit poison venoms sometimes breath fire and has a petrifying gaze

Note: The Cockatrice is much larger than the Basilisk in the Basilisk’s rooster formation!

Basilisk ———- IT really all comes down to which type of Basilisk there are many at leat 5 or 6 different types it’s formations unlike the Cockatrice have evolved over the years!

1.Cockerel-head of a rooster tale of a snake able to fly spits poisonous venom and can petrify with its gaze smaller than its cousin the Cockatrice who is larger in size!

2.Lizard- Four or more legs spits poisonous venom and can petrify with its gaze sometimes able to breath fire

Note: size may differ

3.Dragon- these are able to take flight spits poisonous venom and can petrify with its gaze!

4.Serpent-A very large snake much larger than the Cockatrice in both length height and width spits poisonous venom and can kill instantly with its gaze with direct eye contact but only petrifies with indirect contact)

Note1:There is also a small winged type but is only the size of a normal snake I imagine it has the same abilities to spit poisonous venom and has a petrifing gaze!

Note2: The vision of the Basilisk is not the only thing to grow in lethality however as it’s venom eventually came to possess such potency that it is able to kill by proxy simply touching something which it had come into contact with the venom can prove leathal thus traveling along a weapon poisoning the victim with indirect contact with the Serpent!

Another main difference is the way it is born!

The basilisk is hatched by a cockerel from the egg of a serpent or toad.

The cockatrice is hatched from a cockerel's "egg" incubated by a serpent or toad.


If you look up "Basilisk" in a book of medieval monsters or art, or do a Google image search for "medieval Basilisk," you will find that a Cockatrice & Basilisk are the exact same thing.

Basilisks not being part chicken is a retcon made in the internet era & popularized by the Harry Potter movies.


I just wanted to add that some versions of the Basilisk which DO depict it without either wings or legs, also specify that it does not slither like a snake, but coils its body almost like a Slinky, and moves about by undulating and roiling its coils. This is noted in the Time-Life Enchanted World series in the volume "Magical Beasts." I am unaware of a Cockatrice ever being depicted without wings or legs.

Like all mythological cryptids in the bestiary, there is some wiggle room in the legends. This is how one can find descriptions that say that the Cockatrice is much larger than a Basilisk, while others say the Basilisk is much larger than a Cockatrice. Or there can be descriptions of a Basilisk as wingless yet the Wikipedia page on Basilisks, contains 5 pictures of the creature--three of which clearly show it with wings, and two without.

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