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Cockfighting is one of the oldest sports in the world. Despite its lengthy history, not a lot of people know many things about it. Most people are only aware of the basics. If you’re new to cockfighting, here is a list of facts that you may not have known.
1. Not All Fights End in Death
While many cock fights end with one of the roosters dead, contrary to popular belief, not all matches end that way. Many roosters survive fights but of course, they don’t come out of it unscathed. A lot of times, they acquire serious injuries that render them unable to continue the fight, and therefore end up losing.
Some of the most common injuries that roosters get after a cockfight include broken bones, pierced eyes, and punctured lungs.
2. Cockfighting Is Considered a Form of Animal Cruelty in Many Countries
Cockfighting involves placing two roosters made to fight each other. Because of the nature of this blood sport, many regions of the world consider it an activity that promotes animal suffering and cruelty. Due to that, cockfighting, along with other animal fights, is prohibited in many countries.
A lot of those countries that have criminalized cockfighting and other animal fights have their own animal welfare laws. Aside from making cockfighting illegal, some laws also prohibit certain activities associated with cockfighting such as illegal betting, possession of cockfighting paraphernalia, and selling fighting roosters.
3. In Other Countries, Cockfighting Is a Part of Culture
While there are regions in the world where cock fighting is banned, there are also countries where cockfighting is legal. Some view cock fighting as an activity that is part of religion, tradition, and culture.
For example, in Indonesia and other eastern countries, it is associated with religious rituals. Cockfights are performed as a ritual in Balinese Hinduism. Referred to “tabuh rah,” which translates to “pouring blood,” the ritual is done to provide an offering to appease evil spirits. These rituals are commonly done in the wantilan or a Balinese cockfighting pavilion.
In India, cock fighting activities famously occur during harvest festivals. However, in 1960, a Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was passed and it made cockfighting illegal for many years. In 2018, a Supreme Court passed a judgment reversing the ruling, allowing cockfights for ritualistic purposes in the traditional way.
This means that knives and blades are prohibited, and cock fights must be done without gambling or betting. Cockfighting has now become common throughout southern Indian states, regardless of the purpose.
Cockfighting is also largely practiced in Central and South America. Honduras passed an Animal Protection and Welfare Act in 2016 that prohibits animal fighting activities but “bullfighting shows and cockfights are part of the National Folklore and as such allowed.”
4. Many Prominent People in History Were Passionate About Cockfighting
Cockfighting has been around for many centuries, and a lot of prominent people in history were enthusiasts of this sport. Romans initially discouraged the practice but due to Julius Caesar’s passion for the sport, they soon embraced cockfighting. Julius Caesar was also the one who introduced cockfighting to England.
The sport thrived in 16th-century England and during King Henry VIII’s time, cockfighting events were held at Whitehall Palace. Alongside horse racing, cockfighting became so popular that it even became the national sport at one point. Shakespeare has even made references to pit sports in many of his works. However, by the 17th century, Queen Victoria banned the activity, leading to the decline of cockfighting in England.
In the United States, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were famous enthusiasts of cockfighting.
5. Magellan’s Crew Were the First to Witness Modern Cockfighting in the Philippines
During Magellan’s voyage of discovery of the Philippines, Magellan and his crew witnessed their first modern cockfight. This event was then documented for Westerners by Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta.
6. The Term “Cock of the Game” Was First Used in 1607
The earliest known book on the subject of cockfighting was the book “The Commendation of Cocks and Cock Fighting” by George Wilson, published in 1607. He used the term “cock of the game” to refer to the fighting roosters in a cockfight.
7. Cockfighting Is Illegal in All 50 U.S. States and Territories
While cockfighting gained popularity in the United States for a time, the practice declined when the Civil War began. One by one, states began prohibiting cockfights. There are two federal laws concerning cockfighting: the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Agriculture Improvement Act or the 2018 Farm Bill.
The AWA recognized animal fighting as a federal crime. Later on, with the help of numerous animal rights groups in the United States, this federal law was amended to make it a federal crime to attend a cockfight, bring a child to one, or transport birds across state lines.
Animal rights groups were also instrumental in fighting against severe opposition to pass a bill clarifying that the law applies to all U.S. territories, which ended up being the 2018 Farm Bill. The last state to ban cockfighting was Louisiana and as of 2022, the practice is illegal in all 50 U.S. states as well as its territories.
Cockfighting is a crime in every state but some states consider it as a misdemeanor while there are others where the activity is a felony offense. In 43 states, it is illegal to be a spectator at fights, possess or sell roosters for fighting in 39 states, and possess animal fighting paraphernalia in 29 states. Five states specifically prohibit adults from taking children to a fight.
Cockfighting is also perceived to be breeding criminal activity such as illegal weapon sales, illegal gambling, drug trafficking, and gang activity. Federal investigators have uncovered drug cartels running cockfighting operations as a means to distribute prohibited substances across the U.S.
Despite the federal ban on cockfighting in the U.S. and its territories, many individuals still engage in illegal cockfighting ring operations. Animal rights groups work hand-in-hand with law enforcement, such as the National Sheriffs Association, to investigate animal fighting crimes and prosecute perpetrators. The Humane Society, in particular, conducts training for federal agents as well as offers law enforcement support in state and federal courts.
8. Gambling Is an Essential Part of Cockfighting
There is money involved in cockfighting. Betting on sports is something that has been around for centuries. Since cockfighting falls under the category of blood sports or combat entertainment like boxing, wrestling, MMA, and the like, betting is also an activity tied to it. Placing bets on which rooster is likely to win increases the entertainment value of cockfighting for many spectators.
9. Various Rooster Breeds Are Used in Cock Fighting
Roosters used in cockfighting aren’t just your ordinary chickens. Fighting roosters, also called game birds, game fowls, fighting chickens, fighting cocks, or fighting birds, are different from regular roosters as they are bred, raised, and trained in different ways. These fighting roosters are extremely aggressive not just towards other roosters and hens but also other animals as well.
Some of the best fighting rooster breeds include the Kelso, Peruvian, Hatch, Asil, Radio, and Roundhead. These popular breeds are also often the toughest breeds around.
10. There Are International Cockfighting Tournaments
In countries where cockfighting is legal, most cockfights are done in local cockpit arenas and pits. Aside from small, local cockfighting events, cockfight tournaments also exist. The Philippines, where cockfighting is almost a national pastime, hosts a lot of game fowl expos and tournaments that attract enthusiasts from around the world. For example, the World Slasher Cup which is considered the “Olympics of Cockfighting,” is held biannually in the Philippines.
11. Cockfights Take Place in a Cockfighting Ring or Pit
A cockfighting arena is an enclosed area specifically designed for cockfighting. Cockpit arenas are usually circular, with high walls to keep both birds and spectators inside the area. In the middle of the cockfighting arena is a cockpit where the cocks battle one another. Cockfighting arenas feature viewing seats and stands for spectators to watch matches comfortably.
12. Fighting Roosters Have a Special Diet
Most roosters used in fights have a specialized diet to ensure optimal growth and performance, helping them become amazing animal fighters. The specific diet includes the right mix of feed as well as nutritional supplements.
There are many components needed and a lot of steps to undertake in ensuring that a fighting rooster is being fed properly but doing so will make sure that it is in the best shape possible to potentially win its matches.
13. Roosters Undergo Training in Preparation for Fights
Apart from being fed a special diet, fighting roosters also undergo training. A lot of fighting roosters have a daily routine that consists of exercising, sparring, and finding time to rest. Another part of the training process includes allowing the rooster to become familiar with a fighting pit so that it doesn’t try to escape come game day.
Near fight day, some handlers prefer to isolate a fighting rooster in a small dark box to increase its aggression. Roosters are aggressive and see themselves at the top of the pecking order, so they’re willing to fight those who they see as a threat. However, for cockfights, this amount of aggression is not enough, which is why they are isolated before a fight.
14. In Cockfights, Roosters Are Equipped With Gaffs or Spurs
Gamecocks have natural spurs that are part of the leg bone. Covered with keratin, the natural spurs are a rooster’s weapons to maintain its position at the top of the pecking order, defend its territory, and drive away predators. In cockfighting, these spurs are often removed and replaced with gaffs or metal spurs.
Gaffs are knives that resemble ice picks, sharp enough to inflict serious injury on another bird. The length of a gaff can vary, and it can either be a single-edge blade or a double-edged one.
15. Fighting Roosters Cost Anywhere From 10 USD to 300 USD or More
The price of fighting roosters can vary depending on their age, breed, source, and purpose. Some gamefowls cost 10 USD, while others can cost 100 USD or more. There are also some highly-specialized roosters that cost 800 USD, or even more, especially if they’re a rare, pure-breed variety.
16. Breeding Fighting Cocks Is a Lucrative Industry
Since cockfighting is popular in a lot of countries, breeding gamefowl has become a booming business as well. Some handlers and breeders even travel the world to sell their fowls in international cockfighting expos and tournaments. There are also those who ship birds worldwide.
17. The Most Expensive Fighting Rooster Is the Ayam Cemani
The most expensive game fowl in the world is the Ayam Cemani which hails from Indonesia. It is characterized by its pure black form, from its feathers all the way to the beak, skin, bones, organs, and meat. An Ayam Cemani bird is very difficult to acquire as there are only 3,500 of them in existence. Its price can go as high as 5,000 USD.
18. Online Cockfighting Rose in Popularity at the Height of the Pandemic
In the Philippines, cockfight events happen on a day-to-day basis. However, these events had to take a pause during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as cockfighting was seen as a form of mass gathering and was prohibited. This prompted cockfight enthusiasts to move cockfights online, live streaming matches on platforms with bets taking place online too. Online cockfighting generated billions in the Philippines until it was banned due to high crime rates linked to the activity.
19. The Philippines Uses Its Own Sabong Betting System
Cockfights in the Philippines have their specific terminologies when it comes to making bets. Betting managers called kristos have a system of hand signs due to the loud noise in a cockfighting arena. These hand signs allow kristos to communicate with spectators as well as other kristos.
20. Cockfighting Is a Way of Life for Many Individuals
For a lot of people, cockfighting isn’t just a game or pastime, it is also a way of life. There are those who take part in cockfighting as it allows them to earn extra money, especially if they only earn minimum wage from their day jobs. Some have even made cockfighting their sole job or a business that allows them to feed their families and send their kids to school. Others see cockfighting as a way to relax and a means to escape from life’s problems.
Cockfighting is a practice that involves roosters battling in a pit, but it is much more than that. It has a lengthy history, and it has many aspects that not a lot of people are aware of beyond the surface. It used to enjoy popularity around the world but now, numerous countries have denounced cockfighting, citing it as a form of violence and cruelty to the animals involved. Despite that, there are still regions where this activity is celebrated and practiced today.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How common is cockfighting?
Cockfighting is very common. Many areas in the world have laws against cockfighting but there are individuals that engage in illegal cockfight operations. In countries where the activity is legal and popular, cockfighting pits can be found almost everywhere.
What are the dangers of cockfighting?
Cockfighting events are often associated with other criminal activities such as gang violence, illegal weapons dealing, gambling, drug trafficking, public corruption, and more. If you suspect any criminal activities occurring near your area, you may alert your local law enforcement agency so that you remain safe. These professional investigators will handle everything, from observation all the way to prosecution if needed.
Aside from illegal activities, cockfighting can also be dangerous to health. According to the World Health Organization, fighting cocks have caused at least eight confirmed human cases of avian influenza. This occurs after close or prolonged contact with infected birds, which happens when handlers hold their birds before, during, or after such fights.
Where is cockfighting famous?
Cockfighting is very popular in countries such as Thailand, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, India, Colombia, the USA, and many more. For example, In Thailand, cockfighting is a longstanding part of the culture. It’s common to see farmers and workers crowded around a TV, watching a cockfight on the local channel. There are also Thai artworks dedicated to cockfighting, such as a painting of a traditional cockfighting village scene.
Another example is the Philippines where cockfighting is almost a national pastime. Philippine cockfighting is on an entirely different level compared to other cockfighting cultures around the world. It is a way of life for a lot of Filipinos, with cockpits located all across the country. It’s very common to see a Philippine gamecock or off-color fighting cock tied to a makeshift small wooden hut on the side of a road or outside of a home. The Philippines also hosts various international cockfighting events.
Who started cockfighting?
No one knows who invented cockfighting. Records show that it was already a sport popular in ancient India, China, Persia, and other Eastern regions.