In ancient mythology the Roc or Rukh was an enormous bird of prey reportedly large enough to carry off and eat full grown elephants. Usually described as a white colored bird, its wingspan was reported to be an amazing 48 feet in length complete with feathers as big as palm leaves. The Roc was so big that its eggs were said to be over 150 feet in circumference and according to Arabic Tradition the creature would only land on the mountain Qaf, the center of the world.
One story of the Roc, involving the famous Sinbad the Sailor, tells the tale of how the giant bird unknowingly carries Sinbad to safety after a shipwreck. Sinbad was then stranded in the Roc’s nest on top of a mountain where he found an egg as large as 148 hen’s eggs. Sinbad was later able to escape the Roc’s nest by lashing himself to its leg with his turban without the bird even noticing. Sinbad flew so high with the Roc that he lost sight of the Earth at one point. Eventually, he was able to escape when the Roc flew near another island. The Roc appeared in a total of 4 stories in the Arabian Nights, two of which involved Sinbad the Sailor with the other two involving Abd al-Rahman.
As is the case with most mythical larger than life birds of prey, modern researchers believe that to legend of the Roc may have been started by exaggerated accounts of actual birds. In 1298 legendary explorer Marco Polo described the Roc as living in Madagascar, which at the time may have still been home to the enormous Elephant bird, a now extinct 9 foot tall flightless bird. Some of the world’s largest eagles, which like the elephant bird are now extinct, once lived in Madagascar as well. These eagles, with wingspans over 10 feet, fed off large flightless birds like the Moa, another extinct flightless bird. It is not hard to see how either one of these birds could have been exaggerated into later stories of the Roc.
Another, less accepted theory, suggested that the Roc was inspired by a bird like form seen within the sun’s corona during some total solar eclipses. This total solar eclipse theory is seemingly supported by the fact that Roc is described as white, the color of the sun’s corona, and is described in the Arabian Nights’ as a bird of enormous size, bulky body, and wide wings, flying in the air, and it was that that concealed the body of the sun and veiled it from sun, possibly describing a total solar eclipse.
Today we can only speculate as to the identity of the creature which may have started the legend of the Roc. With the amount of time which has passed since the original legend began and with so many faked Roc related items being giving to historical figures through out time, such as a raffia palm frond being presented to the Great Khan under the guise of a Roc feather, it is hard to separate some fact from fiction in the story of the Roc. And thus today the original identity of the Roc remains a mystery leaving us to only speculate what it could have been.
Although there have been many literary accounts of the Roc, there is currently no physical evidence to support this massive birds existence.
No modern documented sightings of the Roc could be found at this time.
The Stats – (Where applicable)
• Classification: Avian
• Size: 48 foot wingspan
• Weight: Unknown
• Diet: Carnivorous
• Location: Middle East, Saudi Arabia
• Movement: Flight
• Environment: Unknown