Cock Fights / Peleas de Gallos |
Watch a video of a Cock Fight in the Campo

cock fighting rooster
The Fighting Cock, a type of domestic fowl, originated in India more than 4,500 years ago. There are many different breeds, and they are bred for strength and endurance. A Gamecock is not one of your typical farm chickens. He is a strong, colorful, and territorial type of bird. Dignified, wild, tough-bodied and bred to be very aggressive.

Like all roosters, they will fight over food, territory, or mates. These birds are also used for hunting and are relatively easy to raise. The gaming roosters are specially bred and trained for heightened stamina and strength.

For a rooster to reach maturity it takes about 18 months. During this time he is fed the best grains that the owner can afford, vitamins (high grade multi-vitamin and vitamin B, usually administered by injection) and minerals to secure its swiftness, strength and fierceness in the arena. The roosters are treated better than many humans. They are highly pampered
Thanks Festero for the picture of this fine looking rooster. +click to enlarge
The fighting cock is normally a very large, beautifully plumed, and quite healthy (the complete opposite of the chickens raised for food in USA). They do not look anything like the normal chickens you see on the farm. They usually are missing their combs and wattles. To prepare for a fight all the feathers and plumage around the chest and belly are removed. This is to give them less weight to carry so they can have more speed. (My first time seeing this it looked so strange The poor thing looked bald. As he sat nicely on my lap, I could only pet the head and back, it felt to strange holding a bald chicken. He was so calm and nice it was hard to believe he was a blood thirsty killer)

Cockfighting is an old tradition in Dominican Republic and considered to be a sport. It dates back to the pre-Spanish era. It is a sporting event and not considered to be cruelty. It is a business, a hobby, and a way to make some extra money. Cockfighting is enjoyed by all social levels. Rich and poor alike enjoy a good cock fight. Also a way to have a good time with friends. Going to the arena is defiantly a social event. All gather to watch and enjoy the game, men (mostly men), women and sometimes children. Many of the rings where the fighting is held are very nice. These may have a bar and live bands playing for a retreat between fights or when one needs a break from all the yelling and ruckus inside the arena. Some arenas are very primitive and have just the basics.

The Fighting Cocks are brought to the arena by their proud owners.  Here time is spent talking the feed, raising techniques and who will win this days events. As the owners wait for their birds to be weighed and inspected. Then the matching of the roosters is done. This is done to make the fight be equal in all ways. They will have equal fighting abilities, weights and temperaments. The odds are set. All that needs to be done now is wait for the fighting to start. Seeing these birds in their cages, they all look so calm. It was hard for me to believe that they could be as blood thirsty as I had heard.

They get shampooed, massaged and held often. I have even heard many instances where the Cock lives in the owners home. The birds are said to be better treated than the wives and children. These roosters are idolized and prized by their owners. If a breeder gains a good reputation as the breeder of winning cocks, there is much money that can be made. Customers will come from everywhere, even other islands, to buy their roosters. Dominicans are known to breed some of the best fighting cocks around.

The United States is one of the largest suppliers of game fowls for the cockfighting industry.  Just go to a Farm Show or 4H gathering and see these fine birds on display. The prices on these birds will shock and amaze. A prize fighting cock can sell for as much as five thousand dollars. The better breed of bird includes Miner Blues, Hatch, Claret, Black, Round Head and White Hackel. Not every rooster has what it takes to be a fighting cock. The cockfighting or "battle cock" has the durability and strength to fight, and continue fighting, instead of surrendering.

cock fighting ring in dominican republic
A cock fighting ring and the enthusiastic observers. A typical scene at an average fighting arena. +click to enlarge
When the action starts it does get quite exciting. Even if you are just appalled at the violence it is something that one  must experience. The excitement, or maybe a better word is frenzy, from the surrounding crowd, the adrenaline can surly flow. These games can become very loud. The owner yelling, telling the bird what to do. the spectators yelling at the birds and the owners. People calling out their bets. Bets are made on a rooster according to the color of its leg band. When you want to bet you just shout it out. Someone will hear you. Even with all the noise and commotion nothing seems to deter the Roosters from their intentness on killing their opponent.
So if you ever find yourself around or in a cockfighting arena check it out. It is an experience. Even if you don't stay in the arena, the bar is interesting also. There is usually always someone to dance with. Observe the people watching the fights. This alone is entertainment. At least you will have a story to tell some day.

Janette Keys
Copyright 2011 Colonial Zone Dominican Republic
An few interesting tid-bits....
It is said that Abraham Lincoln got his nickname, "Honest Abe," by officiating cockfights fairly.

Another interesting fact....Did you know that Alektorophobia is the fear of chickens?

Gallero Soy Television station broadcasts live cockfighting and videos with lots of info

Espuelas or spurs are attached to the legs of the rooster by colored bands. In the past these spurs were made from bone but now the resin ones are preferred. They are very hard poly ether resin with different curves with many different designs to each set. The spur collection is very valued and cherished . When someone shows you his spur collection, set in a nice padded box, it as if they are showing you a picture of their children.

A fight consists of timed innings. The fighting will go on until the set time is reached for the fight to end or a cock dies or gives up. When the handler/ owner takes his bird into the arena they remove the cover over the birds eyes. They speak to their birds, whispering pointers to their cock. The handler holds his bird up for the audience to see and cheer on while bets are called out. They let the birds see each other and place them close

Der Hahnenkampf from Cosmic Light Productions on Vimeo.

This is a video taken by Cosmic Light Productions by Michael Brims
 
resin espuela/ spur used for cock rooster fighting
resin espuela/ spur used for rooster fighting. It is quite sharp and evil looking.
together while still holding them, sort of trying to edge them on. Once this happens the attitude of this once docile, calm, pet-like, creature changes. The frenzy of the audience and the aggression of the bird mean the fight is about to commence.

Then when the referee, called Juez de Valla, gives the signal the rooster is positioned about a foot away from the line drawn in the dirt and set free.  The game has started, there is no turning back now. the birds may advance slowly, sizing up the opponent, challenging the other to make the first hit. They may circle their adversary trying to find the most unprotected, easily accessed spot to attack. Many say that chickens are brainless. I think they might change their minds if they saw this determined analysis of the opponent before making a strike. There is a much more than just instinct and scent that initiates the battle. They look like boxers in the ring. Once they attack it can be very exciting watching.

The only thing for the onlookers to do now is to wait the outcome of the battle, while yelling all the while. Hoping they  made the correct bet and that there will be money for the pocket. The judge only has to officiate and hand over the money pot to the winner. The cock could receive out of this ordeal, a broken lag, an eye blinded, a lot of attention (especially from the hens as everybody wants to have this specimen) or death and made into a good meal.

As for the owners, they will be able to brag about their best fighter or mourn and dream on the next rooster they will enter into the battle. A winner today may be the looser tomorrow. No cock, whether it is in the lead or falling behind, is guaranteed to win. All it can take is one swift, fatal blow and in just a few seconds things can change drastically.

The losing cock, if it has died, is taken home to be eaten for dinner. Most of the time it is feasted upon right at the arena. 10 minutes after a rooster is dead the roasting will start. This is why most arenas have a chicken stand right outside their gate. The man I know that raises fighting cocks can not eat his own birds. He raises them, they are part of the family, and he just can't bring himself to eat one of his own.

The cock usually will only fight 1 or 2 times a month. If they make it alive and intact for the 4-month distance, winning at least 9 fights, these survivors are among the lucky ones and are granted their rooster names. The named rooster is a very valuable asset for its owner. The owners do not give names to the roosters until they have won many of their battles. The new contenders or the unlucky birds are only called by their colors such as amirillo, carmelo and jabao (mixed colors). Once they have won many fights and are popular among the crowds they are granted a name. These names vary but some friends I know have named their winners Millinario (Millionaire) and Mujeriego (men who really like women).

If you do decide to leave the arena for a break or a drink you will know when something exciting happens. Each time a cock gives a blow to the other one, you will know by the level of noise. Men and women stand up and clap as their favorite is taking the lead.

 



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