What Does Cockfighting Symbolize?

Cockfighting is an ancient blood sport where two roosters attack each other until one of them is subdued due to injuries or, in most cases, death. Said to be one, if not the oldest, form of spectator sport, cockfighting used to thrive across the world but in modern times, this activity has been made illegal across many regions due to its nature of animals inflicting violence on each other.

Despite that, there are still areas around the world where cockfighting is practiced as a form of entertainment or as an aspect of culture or religion. To some, cockfighting may only look like two birds fighting to the death but for many, it is much deeper than that. Cockfighting symbolizes many things for individuals who partake in it.

What Does Cockfighting Represent?

Cockfighting has been around for so long that no one can pinpoint its exact origins. One of the earliest evidence of cockfighting dates back to the Indus Valley civilization.

Religious Significance

Birds, particularly chickens, were used for sport rather than food. At some point in 1000 BC, birds had gained a “religious significance” among ancient communities. Ancient Syrians worshiped fighting cocks as deities. On the other hand, Ancient Greeks and Romans associated roosters with the gods Apollo, Mercury, and Mars. 

In medieval times, cockfighting was done in order to honor particular gods and goddesses. Cockfights were also held during religious festivals as a way to bring people together. Across the world in Bali, Indonesia, cockfights are practiced as an ancient religious purification ritual to expel evil spirits. It is an obligation to be done at every religious ceremony. 

Strength, Courage, and Bravery

Cockfighting is also said to have a mythos centered on the behavior and character of the cock itself. In ancient Greece, fighting cocks were seen as symbols of strength, courage, and bravery. In texts, it is said that Themistocles, a Greek general, decided to hold a cockfight the night before the battle against invading Persians in order to inspire his men.

Masculinity and sense of self

In other studies, modern cockfighting is interpreted as a symbolic expression or magnification of the rooster’s owner’s self, lived and realized through the fighting cock. In Balinese culture, cockfighting or tajen is mostly a male-exclusive practice and the rooster represents the virility and masculinity of its owner. Those who fight better and win in cockfighting matches are better respected.

In a similar vein, cockfighting or sabong in the Philippines is deemed as an enhancement of the participant’s status in society. A mostly male-oriented activity in the Philippines, when men join and win a cockfight, they see it as something to be proud of because it gives them a sense of strength and privilege over their losing counterparts. 

Survival of the fittest

Cockfighting in the Philippines is also an activity that reflects the culture of “survival of the fittest.” With many Filipinos living in poverty, survival of the fittest is their present mindset. For Filipino men, class lines do not exist in cockfighting as it is a game that is enjoyed by both the rich and the masses.

It is a melting pot, an equal ground to them where the wealthy and poor do not exist in the cockpit. A poor man’s gamefowl may be pit against that of the wealthiest, adhering to the idea of equal opportunity.

Final Note

For some people, cockfighting is nothing but a form of cruelty towards animals. For others, cockfighting is an entertaining sport. But for many individuals, cockfighting isn’t just an enjoyable pastime. Instead, it is an aspect of their lives that is a part of their religion or a matter that defines their stand in society and is deeply ingrained in their culture.