The sport of cockfighting is older than many religions. It’s been practiced in all corners of the globe. I decided to find out for myself why it’s so popular.
My first Central American cockfighting experience happened in the little town of Telica, Nicaragua. It wasn’t just any-old occasion either, but a special event that only happens twice a year.
Farmers from surrounding communities gather in Telica to test their prized fighting birds against each other. The events here are like the “SuperBowl” of cockfighting (which is also called gallera in Spanish).
Rules of Cockfighting
Rules for fights differ depending on the country. In Central America, there are four 15 minute rounds, with 15 minute breaks between each. A sharpened metal spur called a gaff is attached to one leg on each of the birds.
Roosters have a natural spur in this area but it gets removed when they are young to prevent them from killing each other.
The artificial gaff is added to give the animal it’s weapon back, and also helps to speed-up the killing process.
In some countries like India the bird’s natural spur is never cut off, and used in the matches rather than an artificial one.
Big Local Fiesta
The day started like most cockfighting championships do, with drinking in the town’s Central Park in the middle of the afternoon. It was a fair-type atmosphere with ferris wheels and other carnival rides for the kids. Plenty of food concessions and bars with outdoor seating kept the adults happy too.
I met up with my new Nicaraguan friends Delver, Oscar, and Pedro to chug a few cervezas before we headed to the arena.
While walking we passed a big parade that stopped to set-off incredibly loud fireworks in the middle of the street as a marching band played festive music.
After we paid our $2 entry fee, a doorman led us into the walled outdoor compound where 2 fighting rings were located. There was a main arena complete with wooden stadium seating, lights, and a metal roof.
The second fighting ring was a smaller, typical farm setup made of pieces of cardboard & wood.
Gambling & Drinking
We headed straight for the main arena to get a good seat up front. It’s a good thing too, because 5 minutes later 200 drunken people rushed inside as the first fight was about to begin.
Before the match both roosters are “warmed up” with a 3rd one.
A handler sticks it in the faces of the other 2 birds, holding it just inches away to rile them up. The spectators start shouting and gesturing to place bets with each other on which animal will be the ultimate victor.
A bell rings and the two feathered fighters are set loose on each other. Then the real action begins.
Cockfighting is Brutal
The birds began attacking by jumping at each other using their feet and beaks as weapons. Bird handlers yell instructions at their prize fighters and clap when they want them to attack.
When first blood was finally drawn, the crowd goes wild. The initially snow-white birds begin to get stained in red as the first injuries occur. One rooster’s sharp beak stabs at his opponents eyes, while the metal spur attached to his leg occasionally finds its mark as he jumps & hovers mid-air with the help of his wings.
Bloody feathers start to float around as the combatants wildly attack in a blur of motion.
After 15 minutes the first round was over. The handlers brought their fighters back to their corners, and began to prepare them for round two.
Emergency Rooster CPR
Blood is cleaned out of their eyes (if they still had them) so they can see again. Wounds were wiped with a rag, and damage is inspected.
One handler gave his bird mouth-to-beak resuscitation. It was slowly dying and having a hard time breathing. Blowing into the rooster’s beak cleared it’s airway, giving it a chance to continue in the next round.
But the 15 minute pause was soon over and the fighting resumed.
After all, it’s not over until one of them is almost dead…
A Champion Emerges…
It soon became clear who was going to win this match. After over 25 minutes of frenzied fighting, one of the birds had just given up. It wasn’t jumping anymore, and eventually stopped standing upright altogether. The handlers still egged him on though, trying to put it back on it’s feet.
Unfortunately there was no hope for this guy. The winner kept attacking, landing repeated blows with it’s metal spur. Blood gushed from a gash on his opponent’s neck. The fighting went on for at least another 5 minutes, just prolonging the inevitable.
Finally the ref stopped the match and announced a winner. Even with his bird clearly on the brink of death, the handler wasn’t very happy. He thought the match should continue.
He believed his practically paralyzed rooster still had a chance. But it was painfully clear to everyone else that it didn’t…
This cockfight was finished.
My Thoughts on Cockfighting
Many countries have outlawed cockfighting, including the US. I wanted to experience the sport first-hand before I made any judgements about it. Now I have.
Roosters are naturally programmed to attack each other, and they are endowed with natural weapons for this specific purpose. It’s Natural Selection in action. Only the strongest survive, which leeds to a stronger species.
Sure, adding sharpened metal spikes is a bit different. But the artificial gaffs lead to quicker deaths than if the roosters were using their own natural spurs.
As for turning it into a spectator’s sport: if I saw two roosters attacking each other in the wild, I would probably sit down and watch. But that’s me.
In a perfect, animal-loving world, the birds would be allowed to live long and healthy lives in rich fields of golden sunflowers. But that world doesn’t exist, and will never exist. Nature never intended for that world to exist. Animals have been killing each other since the beginning of time. It’s not going to stop. PETA can’t change basic laws of nature.
These birds are a source of food for Nicaraguans, not pets. If they didn’t fight them to the death, they’d eventually just chop off their heads and eat them anyway. That’s the way it is. There is no 3rd option.
Put yourself in the chicken’s feet!
You only have two choices. A long & carefree life isn’t realistically one of them.
If you were a rooster, how would you rather leave this world? Getting your head chopped-off and then eaten? What about receiving a chance to fight for your life? If you win, you are fed and cared for like a member of the family, and get to mate with all the hens in the henhouse. :)
Stop the Fight When it’s Over
The only problem I have with cockfighting is the fact that when one of the birds was clearly finished, the fighting was allowed to continue. When a bird is slumped over in the dirt, bleeding profusely and not moving, the match should be over.
Letting the winner continue to stomp on the loser at this point is just torture, and not sport. I had the feeling that the crowd agreed with me. The shouting and clapping stopped when the sport stopped.
We all loved Sylvester Stallone’s miraculous comeback in Rocky IV, but that half-dead rooster won’t do the same thing! ★
What Do You Think?
What’s your opinion on cockfighting? Would you watch a match?
Cost: $2.25 US
Useful Notes: Cockfights usually happen on Sundays in Nicaragua, but not every week. Ask around to find out when and where a match will be happening.