The History of Cockfighting

Cockfighting is an activity that involves two roosters fighting to the death in a pit. This blood sport has quite a lengthy history behind it, dating back to ancient times. Read on further to learn all about the beginnings of cockfighting and its spread around the world.

What Is The History of Cockfighting?

Cockfighting involves two equally-matched roosters, placed in a pit surrounded by spectators. The birds engage in a fight until one is critically injured or lifeless. Let’s dive into the history of this bloodsport.

When Was Cockfighting Invented?

Cockfighting is an ancient spectator sport that began 6,000 years ago, even before the time of Christ. Before cockfighting even became a sport, ancient civilizations regarded the fighting cock as an admirable animal, making them subjects of religious worship.

Ancient Syrians worshipped fighting cocks as a deity while Ancient Greeks and Romans associated cocks with the god Apollo, Mercury, and Mars. In Sumatra, Indonesia, temples were built and rituals were performed to honor the game fowl.

Back in those days, cockfighting occurred in temples and the dead bird that lost the battle was prepared to be presented to the deities. Before Christ, breeding gamecocks for duels was considered an art, and trading them was profitable. 

Despite all the activities that had roosters dueling against each other, the terms “cockfighting” and “game cock” did not exist yet during those times. 

How Long Has Cockfighting Been Around?

Cockfighting has been around for more than 6,000 years. There is evidence that cockfights were a popular pastime in the Indus Valley civilization. According to a study, it is said that there was an indication that birds, especially chickens, were used for sport and not for food within the Indus Valley and that by 1000 BC, birds had assumed a “religious significance.”

Who Invented Cockfighting?

No one truly knows who invented the sport. It was popular in ancient India, China, Persia, and other Eastern countries. In China, the first recorded cockfight took place in 517 BC. Meanwhile, Persian traders liked to engage in gambling and would let their roosters compete against each other. Often, the Persians would carry their birds with them and set up matches in marketplaces and trading centers. 

The sport was introduced into Greece in the time of Themistocles which was around 524-460 BC. Themistocles, a general, held a cock fight the night before the battle to inspire his men by showing the courageous nature of a fighting cock. Julius Caesar of Rome was an enthusiast of the sport and led Rome into enjoying cock fights. The Romans initially discouraged the practice but soon embraced it. 

What was Cockfighting in the Middle Ages?

Aside from Rome, Julius Caesar also introduced cockfights to England. The sport flourished in the 16th century and during the time of King Henry VIII, cock fight events were held at Whitehall Palace. It became so popular that it was even hailed as the nation’s sport for a time. Cockfights also spread to other countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain, and its colonies, Wales, and Scotland. 

Around the 17th century, however, Queen Victoria banned cockfighting in England with a royal decree, leading to the decline of the once-popular sport. 

What Is The Purpose of Cockfighting?

Cockfighting is more than just a form of entertainment or gambling in regions that practice it. This activity is considered part of tradition, culture, or religion. It is also seen as an activity that highlights the strength and power of both the cock and its owner. 

Are Cockfights A Tradition?

In some countries around the world, cockfighting is considered a traditional practice. Some regions that prohibit rooster dueling have given exemptions for locales that practice the activity due to culture, tradition, or religion.

Is Cockfighting Considered A Sport?

Similar to boxing and other combat sports that have an amount of bloodshed, cockfighting is a bloodsport as it involves two cocks in a ring, dueling until one is subdued or lifeless. However, there are some regions that do not regard it as a form of sports but as a cultural activity instead.

Where is Cockfighting Most Popular?

Rooster dueling is highly popular in the Asia-Pacific region. There are also countries in Europe and the Americas where it is practiced but for the most part, it is banned outright.

Which Country is Famous for Cock Fighting?

The Philippines is a country that is highly popular when it comes to rooster dueling. In the Philippines, the activity is locally known as sabong. Cock fight events are both legal and illegal, depending on where it is held and to what level. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, cockfight activities were temporarily banned due to health restrictions. This resulted in the rise of online cockfights or e-sabong. 

Who Introduced Cockfighting in the Philippines?

No one knows who introduced the cock dueling activity in the Philippines. During Magellan’s voyage of the discovery of the Philippines, Magellan and his crew witnessed their first modern cock fight. This was documented for Westerners by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler.

When Did Cock Fighting Begin in the Philippines?

There is no specific timeline but the activity has existed for a hundred years. 

Is Cockfighting a National Sport in the Philippines?

Bird dueling is a national pastime in the Philippines. It is not a national sport but it is widely accepted and practiced to the point that there are local gambling terminologies and gestures. 

The World Slasher Cup, considered to be the Super Bowl of the cockfighting world, is held biannually in the Philippines. Aside from the World Slasher Cup, the World Gamefowl Expo is also held in Metro Manila, Philippines. Bird breeders all over the world also take their gamecocks to the Philippines to sell.

When Was Cockfighting Banned in the US?

Rooster dueling was socially acceptable in the United States for a time. Presidents such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln were among the famous enthusiasts of this activity. It is even said that bird matches were held in the committee rooms of the president and that the gamecock almost became the national emblem but lost by one vote to the American eagle.

The practice of rooster combat declined in the U.S. when the Civil War began. Many northern states banned cockfighting around the 19th to 10th century. The last state to ban the activity was Louisiana, and as of 2022, the practice is illegal in all 50 U.S. states as well as its territories.

While rooster dueling is prohibited, breeding game birds or selling birds vary by state. An organization called the United Gamefowl Breeders Association dedicates itself to preserving gamefowl and organizing breeders in the U.S. 

Is Rooster Fighting A Form of Animal Cruelty?

Animal rights activists consider rooster dueling as a form of cruelty against animals. Animal rights groups find the treatment of birds and the practice itself to be inhumane, leading organizations to petition for the activity to be prohibited and criminalized.

Final Note

While the history of cockfighting has no specific start date, it is clear that this activity has lived through thousands of years. It might now be an outdated and illegal practice in some regions around the world but it is still a popular activity in a number of countries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are fighting rooster knives called?

The knives used in cock fighting are called gaffs. They can also be referred to as spurs.

What is the blade attached to fighting cocks?

In rooster dueling, the natural spurs of cocks are removed and are instead replaced with a gaff. The gaffs have a curve shape, are made of metal, and have a sharp edge.