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Cockfighting is a long-standing part of Thai culture. Similar to Thai boxing, cockfighting is like a national sport. It’s common to see farmers and workers crowded around a TV, watching a cock fight on the local channel.
Learn more about how cockfighting is perceived in Thai society in this article.
History of Cockfighting in Thailand
Legend has it that cockfighting was a spectator sport in Thailand by 1350 A.D. In 1562, Crown Prince Naresuan was captured by the Burmese when he was seven years old, to ensure that the prince’s father stayed loyal to the Burmese King.
It is then said that the Prince, who grew up observing and enjoying cockfights, took part in one with a Burmese Prince and won. Today, many murals often depict the fight between Prince Naresuan and the Burmese Prince. In Cha-Am, there is even a monument to the king that includes many statues of roosters in recognition of the fight.
Is Cock Fighting Legal in Thailand?
Cockfighting in Thailand is legal but comes with strict conditions. Fights are only permitted in licensed pits and arenas, and betting is only allowed in those places as well. The length and frequency of fights are also regulated.
Unlike other countries where cockfighting and the use of metal spurs are legal, in Thailand, it is prohibited to use metal or artificial spurs in fights. Due to that rule, fights don’t end in death but some fighting roosters may leave the ring with a serious injury or two. Cocks are also judged for their fighting skill rather than their ability to kill.
During a fight, the only person allowed in the ring is the referee. Fighting roosters have five 10-minute rounds of fighting, with most fights coming to an end before there is too much damage done as fighting chickens can be expensive.
Most Bangkok cockpits host matches every second Sunday. Licensed cockfighting rings are only one of the very few authorized gambling outlets in Thailand. Owners, trainers, coaches, and spectators take cockfighting matches seriously, gathering at the stadium Monday before a fight to pair up the birds.
At the height of the pandemic, cockfighting and other animal fighting activities with gambling such as horse racing, bullfighting, fish fighting, and cow racing were suspended. It was only recently that the prohibition was lifted, with the government that the animal fighting sports may now resume. All forms of gambling and betting on fights were also allowed once more but under strict regulations.
In recent years, Thai citizens and animal rights activists have been pushing to end cock fighting in the country. Many groups and individuals dedicated to making cockfighting illegal see the sport as cruel to animals, citing that it is not a natural way of deciding the pecking order between roosters.
The notion of animal welfare is slowly gaining momentum in Thailand, and the push saw the introduction of the first-ever animal welfare law in the country. The laws prohibit torture and cruelty against animals however, it puts an exemption to activities seen as a Thai tradition like cockfighting and bullfighting.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Justice plans to promote cockfighting and other animal fighting sports such as bullfighting as a tourism bolstering tool. He encouraged departments to share ideas and opinions on how to make matches and the betting aspect more systematic and internationalized in order to draw in foreign spectators.
What Is Fighting Rooster in Thailand?
The Thailand Game Fowl is a bird that is known for its deadly fighting ability. Also referred to as Thai Game or Thai roosters, they have a small to medium build with muscular legs. Their feathers come in various colors and often have a sleek and glossy appearance.
Breeding and raising roosters is a lucrative business for a lot of Thai people. A fighting rooster can sell anywhere between 3,000 THB (85 USD) to 50,000 THB (1,450 USD). Bird breeders can make around 15 million baht (435,000 USD) or more per month in revenue, not including prize money from fights.
With the right publicity and fewer restrictions, bird breeders can increase their income even more. Moreover, Thai fighting cocks are also exported to neighboring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.
Champion cocks are also treated like professional boxers. Owners and trainers take tremendous care in ensuring that they don’t acquire any injury. Once a fighting cock has won its highest-grossing match, it is unlikely to fight again. This is so that breeders can preserve their profitable reputation. Breeders will take reservations for the offspring of high-stakes winners even before the chicks are born.
Thailand is one of the several countries in the world where cockfighting is authorized and deemed as an activity that is part of culture. Cockfights are only allowed in licensed arenas, with the biggest one situated just outside of Bangkok and can hold up to 2,000 spectators. Gambling is not outlawed but it is also heavily regulated.
Cockfighting enthusiasts believe that presentations could be made about the history of cockfighting in Thailand and that foreign tourists should be encouraged to attend cockfighting events. Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin proposed to promote traditional animal races and fights — such as horse racing, cow racing, fish fighting, bullfighting, and of course, cockfighting — and betting on such activities to increase tourism in Thailand, naming the practices as the country’s “soft power.”
Before a cockfight, owners gather to compare the weight of their birds so that they can match up good pairs. Spurs or gaffs are illegal to use in a fight; they have to be covered or removed. Losing cocks get to live another day as cockfight events don’t end in death. Rather, judges watch out for the bird’s fighting skill and declare the winner based on that.
Additionally, breeding fighting cocks is a very lucrative business. These days, bird breeders can have a car, a house, and a bigger income than individuals with ordinary jobs. Sales of game birds can reach 100,000 THB (2,900 USD) in just a month. Some roosters can even sell as high as a million baht. This is also the reason why modern fighting cocks are treated similarly to professional boxers, being raised with utmost care.