AskDefine | Define cockfight

Dictionary Definition

cockfight n : a match in a cockpit between two fighting cocks heeled with metal gaffs

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A contest, in a cockpit, between gamecocks fitted with cockspurs


  1. To participate in (as a rooster), or organize and run (as a gambler or bookie), a cockfighting event.

Related terms

Extensive Definition

A cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters, held in a ring called a cockpit.
The combatants, known as gamecocks are specially bred birds, conditioned for increased stamina and strength. The comb and wattle are cut off in order to meet show standards of the American Gamefowl Society and the Old English Game Club and to prevent freezing in colder climates. Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. Cocks are given the best of care until near the age of two years old. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match. While not all fights are to the death, they may result in the death of both birds. Cockfighting, was at one time considered to be an accepted, traditional sporting event in the United States. In many other areas around the world, cockfighting is still practiced as a mainstream event and is viewed as the national sport in some countries where it is Government controlled and a large amount of revenue for the state is raised.


Owners set pairs of birds to fight in order to create a spectacle for the purpose of gambling. Historically, this was in a cockpit, a term which was also used in the 16th century to mean a place of entertainment or frenzied activity. William Shakespeare used the term in Henry V to specifically mean the area around the stage of a theater. In 1759, the English artist William Hogarth produced a satirical print called The Cockpit showing the enthusiasm of the gamblers during a cockfight.

Regional variations

In some regional variations, the birds are equipped with either metal spurs (called gaffs) or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird's natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range in length from "short spurs" of just over an inch to long spurs almost two and a half inches long. In the highest levels of seventeenth century English cockfighting, the spikes were made of silver. In the naked heel variation, the bird's natural spurs are left intact and sharpened: fighting is done without gaffs or taping, particularly in India (especially in Tamil Nadu) There it is mostly fought naked heel and either three rounds of twenty minutes with a gap of again twenty minutes or four rounds of fifteen minutes each and a gap of fifteen minutes between them.
Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Italy, Philippines, Peru, Puerto Rico, Canary Islands and Guam have well-established arenas with seats or bleachers for spectators surrounding the ring, similar to a wrestling or boxing arena, and fights may be held all throughout the day. In many countries, the spectacle of cockfighting draws whole families, and in some countries, cockfighting is as popular as baseball and football are in the United States. Among the competitors who raise fighting cocks, there is great pride in the prowess of their birds and in winning a championship.

Latin America


In Aguascalientes, a state capital, one of the city's principal concert halls is the cockfighting arena, the palenque. During the San Marcos Fair, well-known throughout Mexico, cockfights alternate with important concerts, where the singers or dancers perform from the cockpit. Many popular singers have performed there, e.g. Latin Grammy winners Alejandro Fernandez and Alejandra Guzman .


Southeast Asia

Cockfighting is common in The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. In the Philippines they call it "Sabong".


Cockfighting (Vetrukkaal seval porr in Tamil which means "naked heel cock fight") (Kodi Pandem in Telugu) (Kori katta in Tulu) is favourite sport of people living in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka, India. Three or four inch blades (Bal in Tulu) are attached to the cocks' legs. Knockout fights to the death are widely practised in Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, the winner is decided after three or four rounds. People watch with intense interest surrounding the cocks. The sport has gradually become a gambling sport.
Tamil Nadu
Cockfighting in Tamil Nadu is mentioned in ancient literature like Manu Needhi Sastiram, Kattu Seval Sastiram, and other sangam-age literature, 2,000 years old. It is referred to as the favourite past-time for Maravars or the warriors of Tamil Country. It is acknowledged as one of the 64 "arts" widely spoken by the scholars and mastered by the ancestors/scholars of this part of the world. In earlier days they were fighting with the jungle fowl and its variants later, due to the naval expeditions to Java and Malay by the Pandian Rulers the local poultry of that land might have found its way to Tamil Nadu and a new strain/breed started its development in here which later spread to many places such as India. The newer breeds which are known now are The "Reja" (which is a short Variety),"Sonatol","Calcutta Asil","Madras ASil","Kalkatiya" (Also known as "Kadhar" synonymous to Black Asils), The Reds (Also known locally as "Yakuth"),The Yellow Variants (Also known as The "Peela" Asil), The Grey is known locally as "Java" and its variants reddish grey as "Dummer". Also they have a "henny" variety cock known locally as "Pettai Madhiri" the literal meaning is "it looks like a hen", though this variety is said to have come from "Singala Island", or Sri Lanka.


Cockfighting is popular in Pakistan. Betting is illegal, but police often turn a blind eye towards it. In Sindh (one of 4 major provinces), people are fond of keeping fighting cock breed, known as "Sindhi aseel" in Pakistan. These cocks are noted being tall, heavy and good at fighting. Cock-fighting is popular in rural areas, despite the fact that animal-fighting is banned under Islamic Law.


Cockfighting in the Philippines is called "Sabong". It is one of the Philippines' national sports. There are illegal and legal cockfights. (Even the Philippine boxing hero Manny Pacquiao has a cock called "Pac-Man".) Many would gamble on the fight. Cocks in the country are treated like humans. They would feed them, give vitamins, and give them a shower. If the cock has been injured, but still alive, they would usually use it for reproduction. For fighting they would use gloves in an illegal fight, but would use blades in the legal fights.
Famous bloodlines of fighting cocks in the Philippines include:
  1. Sweater (blackwater-carol-chris nesmith, bruce barnette, dink fair)
  2. Hulsey (lemon 84)
  3. Hatch (Doc Robinson, blueface, mclean, colonel givens etc)
  4. Kelso
  5. Roundhead
  6. Claret
  7. Butcher
  8. Regular Grey
  9. Brown red
  10. Irish Dome

Pacific Islands

Cockfighting events in Guam are held during village fiestas where a patron saint of that village is celebrated. With an influx of Filipino immigrants to the island before and after World War II, the sport has been accepted as a tradition. Imported roosters and hens from the U.S. fetch a heavy price and many residents believe that with the bans enforced in the U.S., people may breed chickens.

Legal issues

On 3 May 2007, President Bush signed into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which criminalizes the transferral of cockfighting implements across state or national borders, and increases the penalty for violations of federal animal fighting laws to three years imprisonment. In 2006, the United States Virgin Islands passed a bill which outlaws the use of artificial spurs. Thus far the bill has not been enforced.
Cockfighting has a higher level of social acceptance in Puerto Rico than in Louisiana. It also has a much larger pool of fighting cocks than the Virgin Islands or Guam. Metal spurs causes a high mortality of birds. With the interstate transport ban Puerto Rico is likely to be the last holdout. The United States Virgin Islands government is trying to move the sport towards Gamecock Boxing.

Cocke County, Tennessee arrests

On June 11, 2005 a number of law enforcement agents raided a cockfighting pit in Del Rio, Tennessee.. Authorities claim this was one of the largest and oldest cockfighting operations in the United States. The agents arrested 144 people, killed over 300 roosters, and confiscated $40,000 in cash. One owner stated he lost 20 chickens valued at $150 each during the raid. The 144 people arrested were booked on charges of being spectators at a cockfight, a misdemeanor. In Tennessee, defendants found guilty of those charges face up to eleven months and twenty-nine days in jail, plus fines up to $2,500.

United Nations commemoration

On March 10, 2008, members of the Hawaii state legislature introduced a concurrent resolution requesting the United Nations General Assembly "commemorate cockfighting as a global sport."

In popular culture

Cockfighting has inspired artists in several fields to create works which depict the activity. Several organizations, including the University of South Carolina, Jacksonville State University and London football team Tottenham Hotspur F.C. have a gamecock as their mascot and the University of Delaware's mascot is the Fightin' Blue Hen. The Alex Haley novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the miniseries based on it feature cockfighting and films featuring the sport include the 1965 film The Cincinnati Kid, the 1974 film Cockfighter, directed by Monte Hellman (based on the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford).
Cockfighting has also featured in TV episodes of such programmes as Seinfeld ("The Little Jerry"), House ("Humpty Dumpty"), Drawn Together ("Mexican't Buy Me Love").
Cockfighting has also featured in songs such as Kings of Leon's Four Kicks and Bob Dylan's song "Cry a while" from the album Love and Theft. The story song El Gallo del Cielo by Tom Russell is entirely about cockfighting, and the lyrics utilize detailed imagery of fighting pits, gamecocks, and gambling on the outcome of the fights.
The Expressionist painter Sir Robin Philipson, of Edinburgh, was well known for his series of works depicting cockfighting.
Wilford Brimley is a high profile supporter of cockfighting.
cockfight in German: Hahnenkampf
cockfight in Spanish: Pelea de gallos
cockfight in Finnish: Kukkotappelu
cockfight in French: Combat de coqs
cockfight in Hebrew: קרב תרנגולים
cockfight in Japanese: 闘鶏
cockfight in Dutch: Hanengevecht
cockfight in Russian: Петушиные бои
cockfight in Swedish: Tuppfäktning
cockfight in Vietnamese: Đá gà
cockfight in Chinese: 斗鸡
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