We often see the image of the rampant lion used as a symbol in heraldry and other places. I understand the significance of the lion, and I am aware that ancient art often incorporated the lion, but the rampant lion as mentioned is a very specific representation of the animal.

Today we call the different lion poses by different names and ascribe to each of them different meaning, but at some time in the past these names and associated meanings did not exist. I therefore would see no issue with any one entity using a rampant lion as a symbol, but its perseverance is so common that I wonder where the copy-cat idea started.

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    Excursus: the lion is so common in heraldry, which caused the saying "Chi non ha un blasone, ha un leone", meaning "Whoever has no coat of harms, has (i.e. will create one containing) a lion"
    – o0'.
    Feb 23, 2012 at 17:22
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    Presumably any knight heading into battle with a shield bearing a "kitten dormant" didn't produce quite the level of fear and awe he expected?
    – none
    Feb 24, 2012 at 16:14
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    @none I so want a kitten dormant on my shield. As opposed to on my lap, when I was just about to get up and go somewhere ;) Feb 26, 2015 at 16:08

3 Answers 3


I am only guessing, but I would imagine that part of the popularity of the attitude of lions rampant (so once you allow for the relatively obvious reasons for choosing a lion as opposed to some other animal) might just be that it fits a shield or the breastpiece of a tabard nicely. All the other attitudes (except salient, maybe) are less optimised to the tall-and-narrow proportions and leave lots more space that needs filling:

Argent a lion sable Two lions passant Azure, a lion sejant regardant (cowardly?) or, holding a chi-rho staff labelled Civ Arel Or, a lion statant gules, crowned and langued azure, on a triple-peaked mountain azure, with a rock(?) argent in base Argent a lion cochant gules

(The order above being rampant, passant, sejant, statant, couchant; I couldn't find a decent image of salient, unfortunately.)

Equally, of course (and giving a reason to prefer rampant over salient), it's the most aggressive fighting stance of the leonine attitudes, which I guess would have an obvious appeal, given the context.

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    Thank you, it is exactly the attitude of being rampant that I was wondering about. Your explanation does sound plausible, as the rampant lion surely fills the shape of the shield well. Thanks!
    – dotancohen
    Feb 26, 2012 at 14:55
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    Could this be a decent image for a salient lion in heraldy ? cheshire-heraldry.org.uk/vale_royal/snowdon.jpg or that one : heraldsnet.org/saitou/parker/images/m377a.gif
    – Evargalo
    Apr 11, 2018 at 9:08
  • @evargalo Yes, Snowdon there would be a decent example of a lion salient; I think m377a.gif is another lion rampant (with queue fourchée), Just drawn with forelimbs in a slightly unusual position. Apr 12, 2018 at 11:52

A Jewish person told me the lions rampant represented the twin sons of Judah, son of Jacob/Israel. If I remember correctly, the red lion rampant represents Zerah, because he was first born as indicated by the red thread placed around his wrist, and the gold lion rampant represents Perez, because he was first to completely emerge from the womb. Don't quote me on this. I came to this website hoping to find the answer.

As coats of arms are the same thing as a signature, it is considered forgery to use a symbol you're not entitled to, and is punishable by law....even today.

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    It would be better if you asked this as a separate question (as you don't seem certain enough about this for it to stand as an answer to this question).
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 28, 2018 at 8:01

The rampant lion was the symbol of king Richard the lion heart

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