My Central American Cockfighting Experience

Cockfighting Nicaragua
Cockfighting Match Begins
Telica, Nicaragua

The sport of cockfighting is older than many religions and has been practiced around the world. I decided to find out for myself why it’s so popular in Nicaragua.

WARNING: This post contains graphic photos that may be disturbing.

Many countries have outlawed cockfighting, including the US. I wanted to experience the sport first-hand before I made any judgements about it.

My first cockfighting experience occurred in the small Nicaraguan town of Telica. It was a special event that the town celebrates twice a year.

Farmers from surrounding communities gather to test their prized fighting birds against each other. It’s the “SuperBowl” of cockfighting here, called Gallera in Spanish.

Cockfighting Spur
Attaching Sharpened Metal Spur

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.

You may not realize that roosters actually grow their own spur here, but it gets removed when they’re young to prevent them from killing each other — something they do naturally.

This new artificial gaff is added to give the animal its weapon back, and help speed-up the killing process. In some countries like India, the bird’s natural spur is never cut off and is used in matches as-is.

Cockfighting Match
Let the Games Begin

Popular Local Festival

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 festival atmosphere with ferris wheels and carnival rides for kids.

Plenty of food concessions and tents with bars for keeping 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 fighting arena. We passed a large parade that stopped to set-off incredibly loud fireworks in the middle of the street as a marching band played festive music.

After paying a small entry fee, we were led 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. A typical farm setup made from pieces of cardboard & wood.

Cockfighting Spectators
Crowd Watching the Action

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 people rushed inside as the first fight was about to begin.

Before the match both roosters are “warmed up” with a 3rd one.

The handler sticks it in the face of the other bird, just inches away to rile them up. 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 upon each other. Now the real action begins…

Cockfighting Match Nicaragua
Which Bird Will Be the Champion?

Cockfighting Is Brutal

The birds begin attacking by jumping, using their feet and beaks as weapons. Handlers yell instructions at their prize fighters and clap when they want them to attack.

When first blood was finally drawn the crowd went wild. The 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 float around as the combatants 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.

Bloody Cockfighting
White Turns to Red

Emergency Rooster CPR

Blood is cleaned out of their eyes so they can see again. Wounds were wiped with a rag, and damage is inspected.

One guy attempted to give 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 break was soon over and fighting resumed.

Cockfighting CPR
Mouth-to-Beak Emergency CPR

A Champion Emerges

It quickly became clear who was going to win this match. After 25 minutes of frenzied fighting, one bird had just given up. It wasn’t jumping anymore, and eventually stopped standing upright.

His handler egged him on though, trying to put it back on its feet.

Unfortunately there was no hope for this guy. The champion kept attacking, landing repeated blows with the metal spur. Blood gushed from a gash on the opponent’s neck.

Fighting continued for 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.

Cockfighting Nicaragua
This Chicken is Cooked

Ethics Of Cockfighting?

Roosters attack each other in the wild all the time. In fact nature endowed them with weapons for this specific purpose. Only the strongest survive, creating a stronger species.

Sure, adding sharpened metal spikes is different. But artificial gaffs lead to quicker deaths then if the roosters were using natural spurs.

In a perfect, animal-loving world, the birds would be allowed to live long and healthy lives in thick fields of golden sunflowers. But that world doesn’t exist, and will never exist. Nature never intended for that world to exist.

Chickens are a source of food for Nicaraguans, not pets. If they didn’t let them fight, they’d just chop off their heads and eat them anyway.

I understand why many people think this practice is barbaric.

But do you realize how most chickens are raised in the United States? They endure FAR more torture and live horrible lives compared to these pampered Nicaraguan birds.

I wouldn’t call myself a fan of cockfighting, but also I don’t judge those who enjoy it. It’s not nearly as evil as some people make it out to be. ★

Travel Planning Resources for Telica, Nicaragua
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I hope you enjoyed this story about my Central American cockfighting experience! Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

What’s your opinion on cockfighting?


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
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Leave a Comment

Comments (36)

  1. Cockfighting should be legalized, many are encouraged to breed and reproduced this kinds of birds due to this SPORTS specially the HULO cockfighting where in they don’t use any metal spurs, just using the natural spur, gamefowls/chicken can win 2 – 10 wins before being a good breeder, You can bring your gamefowl home after a game with just some injuries and can be cured for a week or couple of weeks, unlike the texas fight both chicken are dead even if it wins or loss….I love producing/breeding and to train this kind of birds preparing for a mega fight, like boxing or a UFC fight….animal act and other related laws knows nothing, they don’t understand its importance for the population of this gamecocks…..they just focus on one cock on the game not considering the owners passion to care and reproduce this breed of birds….soon this birds will be considered endangered species on this countries cockfighting is prohibited.

  2. Thank you for this article. I am doing a study on cockfighting and you put great information about cockfighting. The pictures were graphic but made me feel like I was there. Thanks!!!???

  3. What a bunch of crock! This is far from “natural” and a “quicker” death. I have chickens and yes, roosters fight each other but one will usually turn submissive and give up the fight, unless thrown into a ring where no bird can escape and therefore gets hacked to death. What this is is a spectacle – a reason to gamble and get drunk and become a blood thirsty crowd – it’s been happening since the gladiator games in Rome where people willingly gathered to see people hacked to death. Guess it makes some people feel “alive” to see all that suffering and pain. No wonder there is still misery and suffering … violence begets more violence. Ghandi said “you can judge the state of a nation on how it treats its animals” and those words ring very true to me.

    • Yes, the roosers you own are probably table and egg chickens. They don’t fight to the death.. That’s why the are cheap. Our gamecocks cost upward of $300. These guys fight to the death. If they refuse to fight, they simply lose the match No forcing to fight. They can quit anytime.

  4. I duly agreed that cock fighting had existed from the time immemorial. I’m from Sarawak, Malaysia which is situated in Borneo Island. Cock fighting is still legal in Sarawak which is practiced by the Dayak race. Normally , it would be held and coincided with festive seasons like Gawai Dayak celebration. I happened to read magazines from USA whereat at one time cock fighting is legalized in some states. I admired the way they breed and maintain the blood line from previous generations. I was told some cockers from Sarawak imported the cockerels from the Philippines and some right all the way from USA. They will mention of the main strains e.g Hatch, Lemon, Democrats and Kelso etc. They are really good fighting breed.

    • I don’t believe it is legal in Malaysia. As far as I know, cockfighting is outlawed under the Animal Welfare Act.

    • Cockfighting is a billion dollar industry in the Philippines, from the farm attendants, bet-takers in the galleras, to the big companies providing feeds and drugs for the game fowls. Now, if someone in the congress or in the senate will author a law making cockfighting illegal in the Philippines I am very sure that someone cannot win a set in the congress / senate anymore..

  5. 1- weapon not a gaff, it’s a tiny blade 1/8 or 3/32 inch on a flat deck called “zapata”
    2- best warrios kill in 3-5 minutes, those which can’t make it are called “porrocos”, (plymouth rocks)
    gretings from nicaragua

  6. I grew up raising and fighting these fine animals, It is truly an art meets science sport. I sure miss it.
    I wonder, has our nation improved under this new law to ban cockfighting ??? Not so much!
    Politically correctness is tyranny with manners!
    freedom is FREEDOM
    By law, I must pay for immorality through taxation but I can’t fight gamefowl!

  7. Hi. I’m a cocker, from the philippines and i’m into the sport of cockfighting. I agree with the views of the author about cockfighting. I would just like to comment on his statement about when the fight should end. Different countries have different rules on the game. Here in most part of the Philippines the “koyme” (referee) will be the one to facilitate the game. The winner will be decided in several ways

    1. If one of the cock dies, The survivor will win.

    2. If both cocks are still alive but cannot fight anylonger, the “koyme” will pick up both cocks and allow them to peck each other. Whoever does not peck anymore will be the loser. Two pecks is all you need to win.

    3. If the cock will run away from the fight , it will be declared as the loser.

    these rules are made so that the fight will be stopped if it is over….


    • i feel exactly the same/ our fathers were close to same time…whate state or states was he in? i am glad my father did not experience the total outlawing of this ancient sport in the u.s. he passed on.

  9. War between humans never ends. Bombs, and bullets. But people want to call cockfighting inhumane. I have always wanted to raise a rooster from birth to train it to fight

  10. Excellent post you have here about cockfighting. This is the first time I had a glimpse of how cockfighting is played in Nicaragua. In my country the Philippines, this sport is also very popular so much so that every day there is cockfighting going on. You just have to choose the city where you want to go to see a cockfight and you’ll be able to watch one whatever day it is.

    I agree that the game was quite long lasting for 25 minutes. Here, the fight is up to 10 minutes only and upon reaching that time, if both roosters are still pecking, it will be declared a draw. But cockfighting in the Philippines rarely reaches 10 minutes because we are using the long knife. the fight can be over in just one strike in rare cases and up to two minutes generally speaking.

    This is already a long comment because I liked your post. More Power and keep spreading the news about this sport and tradition.

    • Happy you enjoyed it Jimto! :) I think it’s wrong to judge how other cultures do things without knowing the whole story. There’s plenty of stuff my own country does that many people around the world consider “wrong”. Judging others is an arrogant activity.

  11. Can’t argue with your logic here. This isn’t a dog fight, where each animal has a legitimate alternative to a gory ending…like bull fighting in Spain, it’s a spectator sport where animals domesticated by man (primarily for food) are slain in the act of a show or spectacle. After all, they are only allowed to survive based on their respective capacities to provide more utility(e.g. to grow, thus providing more meat, or to mate…). It ain’t pretty, but it’s also exhibited in shady, withdrawn locales, witnessed only those who choose to see it.

  12. It just amazing how peoples views are different from country to country in the US you would be arresting for cock or dog fighting or anything with animals killing one another.

  13. Fantastic photos and a great play by play. I would love to experience this type of thing. I’ll try anything once. Your photos are very artistic and very visual. While I may never get to see a cockfight in person, at least your photos captured the event and i felt like I was there. Great work! Now back to my regular scheduled program and my chicken nuggets!!

  14. I would definitely have watched a cock fight if I had the opportunity. Although I haven’t watched one for myself, I have a feeling I would generally come down on the same side as you have. As someone who comes from a place where I have never had to worry about my next meal nor had to actually kill my next meal, I do not want to judge others for customs that have been created related their survival.

    Great photos (disturbing yes, but still great) and great writing!

  15. Didn’t look at the warning pictures, can’t stomach animals being hurt by either natural or unnatural means, I turn the channel on the nature channel when the lion is going to kill the zebra. I think this is one experience I will gratefully miss. You do do a great job of explaining the experience and giving all points of view. I enjoyed the commentary

  16. First rate article. My first thought is to wonder what is does to the mentality of the people who watch cockfighting repeatedly? Does aggression make them more aggressive? Is that good because life is like that? Is it bad because life is capable of heading towards other directions?

    Again your photos are excellent –

    • I’m not sure. Blood sport has always been popular all over the world. The US even has it’s own version, it’s called the Ultimate Fighting Championship. :)

      I also know plenty of non-aggressive people that enjoy watching aggressive sports.

    • I am a cockfighter. I breed and fight gamecocks professionally. What goes through my mind? It’s an accomplishment for me as a breeder to have a winning percentage every year, It’s what makes all the hard work worth it. This is one of the most difficult sporting events in the world and being successful at it gives us pride and accomplishment. It’s a priceless feeling.

  17. Cockfighting is also very popular in my home country but I have never had the desire to watch it because I really don’t like to see animals die in front of me. Although you do make an excellent point about how they do die eventually and not from a natural happy death.