Cockfighting is a sport that pits gamecocks against each other. The cocks are trained to be aggressive toward each other then put into a ring to fight. Most cockfights end with one of the birds being killed. Many people feel that cockfighting should be outlawed due to potential animal cruelty, while in other places, the pastime continues to draw support. The history of cockfighting stretches back into ancient times.
Prior to becoming fighting birds, gamecocks in ancient times represented strength and were considered worthy of respect from men, according to the KPLC News website. Syrians worshipped the gamecock, while ancient Greeks and Romans thought gamecocks were linked to Apollo, Mercury and Mars. Sumatrans also worshipped gamecocks, with temples and rituals dedicated to the birds.
The roots of cockfighting date back to Southeast Asia's ancient times, around 1,000 B.C. From here, the pastime spread to Persian culture. Around 480 B.C. the Persians brought cockfighting to Greece, where it became a major sport. Greek cockfights were performed before warriors went into battle to make the fighters more hyped up and increase their bravery. The carcase of the losing bird was presented to the gods after it was soaked in spices then burnt.
Romans gained an enthusiasm for cockfighting soon after. Julius Caesar was a cockfighting enthusiast and wound up bringing cockfighting into England around 55 B.C. While the sport existed since that time in England, it became exceedingly popular during the 16th and 17th centuries, with schools popping up dedicated to the breeding, training and fighting of gamecocks. Cockfighting had also spread to Spain and Central and South America. Cockfighting arrived in the United States in several different ways. Explorers from England and Spain brought the sport to the New World. In addition, Mexican immigrants later began to bring cockfighting into the country.
In the early times of cockfighting, the fights occurred within Roman and Greek temples. The losing bird was offered to the gods. As cockfighting spread to places like England, the location of the fights changed. English cockfights occurred within churches or in churchyards. As cockfighting progressed, the sport moved into specially designated cockpits enclosed with chicken wire or wood.
Cockfighting as a national sport is increasingly rare. In the early 19th century, Queen Victoria banned cockfighting in England in order to protect the birds. Within the United States, cockfighting has been outlawed since 2008, according to the Humane Society of the United States. While the country lacks an overall federal ban, individual states have ruled that cockfighting is a punishable crime. Federally, the transmission of gamecocks across state lines is a felony.
- KPLC News: History of Cockfighting
- Humane Society of the United States: Cockfighting is History in the United States
- "The Art of Cockfighting"; Ruport Arch; 1949