How To Make Cockfighting Gaffs

Cockfighting is a tradition and a popular sport that began in ancient times. As the name implies, cockfights involve two roosters that are made to fight to the death inside a pit. In modern cockfighting, the natural spurs of the game cocks are removed to make way for razor-sharp blades called gaffs. In this article, we’ll be teaching you the general process of making a cockfighting spur.

Use of Gaffs in the Cockfighting Ring

Roosters have a natural spur that is part of their leg bone. This natural spur is covered with a hard material known as keratin, which is what a chicken’s beak is made of. A chicken often leads its attack with his spur. Chickens also use their spurs to defend their territory and protect themselves from predators. 

In cockfighting, the natural spurs of a bird are instead replaced with a gaff. Made of metal, gaffs closely resemble ice picks as they have curved blades. These metal spurs are attached to the legs of birds, allowing them to tear at their opponents inside the cockfighting ring. Due to the sharpness of the gaff, fighting cocks can sustain severe injuries that often lead to their demise.

The length of a spur varies from one country to another. But in general, spurs measure around an inch long up to 3 3/4 inches in length. The attachment of the spur also varies. In some countries, the gaffs are attached to both legs of the gamecocks while in some places, a gaff is attached to the left leg only.

Why are Artificial Gaffs Used in Cockfighting?

One may wonder, if a fighting bird has its natural spur, why do cock fights make use of gaffs? There are several reasons for that. While the natural spurs of gamecocks are made with a hard shell, they are not as effective in fights. Metal gaffs can raise the stakes on the outcome of a fight. A metal gaff also provides a degree of uniformity and fairness amongst the fighting birds as natural spurs vary greatly in size and shape.

Gaffs are often prepared by specialists and skilled artisans. A lot of times, a fighting bird is fitted with a customized gaff that suits the taste of the artisan or the bird handlers. If a cockfighter cannot acquire a custom-made gaff for his bird, there are also artisans who sell a variety of wares during cockfight events. 

Making A Cockfighting Gaff

Generally, the process of making a cock fighting gaff involves several complicated steps. Creating a cockfight gaff involves acquired skill and proper techniques, hence why gaff makers are usually deemed as specialists and artisans. A variety of tools are also needed to smith a metal gaff. 

Either the blade or the u-shaped appendage of the spur can be made first. Most artisans begin crafting the u-shaped appendage first. To do so, a piece of steel is heated until it is red hot. Once it has achieved that bright red color, the specialist will proceed to cut the steel. After cutting the steel, it is returned to the fire to heat it up again so that it can be split into smaller pieces.  

The small piece is then heated up once more until it is soft. It is hammered using a ball hammer while it is held on the opposite end using flat-jaw tongs. Its tip is hammered directly onto the edge of an anvil to form an angular notch. This process continues until a sharp, angular protrusion is formed. The end opposite is then split lengthwise to form a Y-shape. 

The Y-shaped steel is hammered further and returned to the fire so that the specialist can forge it to its final form. The steel is then aligned and put into a mold so that all appendages will have a uniform shape. The rough U appendage is then cleaned and grooved out before a blade can be attached to it. 

When it comes to the blade itself, artisans frequently use high-speed steel. A steel piece that measures 12.5cm in length, 1.0cm in width, and 0.7cm in thickness can produce two blades if expanded and elongated. This steel piece is then heat-treated and hammered on both ends until a crescent shape emerges. While the blade is being formed, the gaff maker constantly alternates between annealing, hammering, and aligning the cutting edge and the back of the blade.

As part of the final step, the blade is quenched by immersing it for a few seconds in crude oil to make it less prone to corrosion. It is then quenched in water to harden it. Next, the blade is leveled using a grindstone so that it will fit into the slot around the waist of the U-shape appendage, The pieces are then welded together, cleaned, filed, ground again, and smoothed.

Following that, the blade is then tempered. Tempering the gaff reduces the brittleness and some hardness of the blade. After tempering, the metal spur is sharpened using an electric grinding machine with an electric-powered grinding wheel linked by a fan belt. 

Are Rooster Gaffs Illegal?

In countries where cockfights have legal status, the use of gaffs is also legal. On the other hand, in territories where cockfighting is outlawed, the use and possession of gaffs are illegal. 

Is The Possession of a Rooster a Federal Crime?

Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states and U.S. territories. The Animal Welfare Act of 1996 makes it a misdemeanor to ship, exhibit, or sponsor birds for fighting. In 2007, the Animal Fighting Prohibition Reinforcement Act was signed into law, increasing the penalty for animal fighting violations from a misdemeanor to a felony.

This law also made it illegal to “knowingly sell, buy, transport, or deliver in interstate or foreign commerce a knife, a gaff, or any other sharp instrument attached, or designed or intended to be attached, to the leg of a bird for use in an animal fighting venture.” 

The 2008 Farm Bill further increased penalties for fighting activities involving animals and the possession of animal fighting instruments. Louisiana was the last state to implement legislation that banned cockfighting. In 2013, Nevada became the latest state to make cockfighting a felony.

Although all states have a law against cockfighting, some states further extended the ban to cover possessing birds or cock fight implements. Additionally, thirty-one states permit the possession of cockfighting implements and 12 states allow the possession of a fighting cock even though cockfights are against the law.

Views of the Humane Society on Animal Suffering and Cockfighting

The Humane Society of the United States condemns cockfighting, seeing it as a form of abuse against animals, with roosters in particular. Any chicken raised and involved in a cock fight is often injected with steroids and other adrenaline-boosting drugs. The chickens are also known to be kept in a small dark box and isolated from other roosters two to three weeks before a fight. 

The Humane Society has been working hand-in-hand with law enforcement to put an end to cockfighting practices in the country. They have lauded the United States government for passing strong laws against animal fighting. Additionally, the Humane Society also criticizes any attempts to pass new laws that support animal fighting.

In line with their mission to condemn fights involving roosters, the Humane Society also decries the usage of gaffs tied to the birds’ legs, deeming them as dangerous for both birds and humans alike. There have been cases where cockfighters themselves have been accidentally slashed by their own birds or worse, ended up dead due to being stabbed by the spur.

The Humane Society also deems cockfighting to be a breeding ground for gambling, trafficking drugs, and illegal weapon sales. Gambling is an inherent part of fights, with thousands of dollars being wagered by spectators and owners at the pit. The Humane Society also links cockfighting to the spread of diseases among birds and other animals, citing it as another reason to cease all forms of cockfighting.

Final Note

Cockfighting is known to be one of the oldest blood sports in history. Two roosters are armed with gaffs and placed inside a pit to fight to the death. In some parts of the world, cockfighting is a way of life, but there are also regions where this practice is outlawed.

In places where cock fights are legal, the use of gaffs is also allowed. Therefore, it is common to see the use of metal gaffs in fights. Gaffs are made by highly-skilled specialists as creating one involves a lengthy and complicated process. The artisans are also usually the ones who attach the gaffs to the legs of gamefowls before a fight. 

Gaffs can vary in length and size. Their placement may also vary; some allow spurs to be attached to both legs, while others follow a strict rule of attaching it to only one leg. The use of gaffs raises the stakes of a fight, spurring spectators and cockfighters to bet on their favored cocks to win.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is a fighting rooster worth?

The cost of a rooster depends on its breed. It can start at USD 50 and can even go as high as USD 8,000. 

What to feed fighting roosters?

Feeding a fighting cock with proper food and nutrients can help increase its stamina and strength in the pit. Roosters must be provided with feed that contains parsley, sunflower seeds, oat groats, lentils, corn, millet, and wheat.