The low cost and highly efficient construction of electrocatalysts has attracted significant attention owing to the use of clean and sustainable energy technologies. In this work, cobalt nanoparticle decorated N-doped carbons (Co@NC) are synthesized by the pyrolysis of a cobalt covalent organic framework under an inert atmosphere. The Co@NC demonstrates improved electrocatalytic capabilities compared to N-doped carbon without the addition of Co nanoparticles, indicating the important role of cobalt. The well-dispersed active sites (Co-Nx) and the synergistic effect between the carbon matrix and Co nanoparticles greatly enhance the electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction. In addition, the Co content has a significant effect on the catalytic activity. The resulting Co@NC-0.86 exhibits a superb electrocatalytic activity for the oxygen reduction reaction in an alkaline electrolyte in terms of the onset potential (0.90 V), half-wave potential (0.80 V) and the limiting current density (4.84 mA·cm–2), and a high selectivity, as well as a strong methanol tolerance and superior durability, these results are comparable to those of the Pt/C catalyst. Furthermore, the superior bifunctional activity of Co@NC-0.86 was also confirmed in a home-built Zn-air battery, signifying the possibility for application in electrode materials and in current energy conversion and storage devices.