Cockfighting Through The Eyes Of A Kano

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Cockfighting is one of the most popular blood sports worldwide and happens illegally throughout South and Central America, Africa and Asia. It is only in the Philippines where it is accepted as the national sport, and is 100% legal.

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Having attended a few local fighting arenas known as cockpits, it was difficult to understand exactly what was going on, here is my version of events that took place at the fight. Please be aware that any sexual innuendos that may appear in this blog, are purely coincidental…

Not only is Sunday the holy day of rest, but also the prime time to catch a cockfight. The men turn up roughly thirty minutes before the fighting begins and simply loiter around with their cocks in hand. I assumed this is to size up each others cocks and talk about the odds for the day, and maybe a little trash talking…

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My cock is better than your cock

The standard one on one brawl is known as a ‘hack fight’. Just before the hack fight commences, an extremely sharp, 3 inch blade is fastened to one of the legs of each stag, this is so they do actually hurt each other, a fight to the death would last an eternity without a blade. Another two chickens are brought into the arena and are used to peck at the competing birds, this is to get the fighters psyched up, their role is a little like a manager in boxing. Then they are rubbed against each other just so they know ‘this is who you need to kill’…

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The blade covers are removed and the battle begins. The fight ends when one contestant is dead or can no longer peck at his opponent when the referee holds the two face to face. The final decision is normally made when a cock can no long stand after three attempts of being lifted to its feet, this is called a careo. The other way to lose is if one of the stags basically bottles the fight and runs away, this seldom happens and is normally received with a chorus of laughter from the hoi polloi, probably the most embarrassing way to lose for the sultador (owner/trainer). Time limit is 10 minutes but is usually over very quickly. To view one the fights from the San Juan cockpit click here

The rules vary from province to province, but this is generally how it goes. The winning sultador, as well as pride and prize money has the added bonus of taking the dead cock home for dinner…

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A variety of different house rules

One of the strangest things, being a foreigner, was understanding the betting system. As the cocks are getting fired up by their respective ‘managers’, everyone in the arena stands up and begins shouting at each other whilst throwing crumpled up piso bills back and forth. At first, I didn’t have a clue what was happening, but came to the conclusion that the people shouting, are asking which other persons would like to bet against them, so when you bet, it’s basically you betting against one other person, not a bookmaker. Cards are handed out to explain the odds but it somehow was determined by the colour of the cocks that coincided with certain dates and all odds were 2/1. To see the madness of a cockfight betting system click here

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Betting card

This is just my version of what took place around me, I tried to get a decent explanation from a local of exactly how it works, but the clientele at the cockfights were mainly tough folk with limited English, plus they always seemed to give the scary white man a hostile reception…

I cannot stress enough just how massive this sport is in the Philippines, everywhere you look there is cockfighting. We were constantly driving past training facilities called ‘game yards’ where the cocks are kept. Every town has stores called agrivet supplies that sell protein, speed pills, steroids and the like to increase the performance of the stags. Most of the supplements are legal, however, there was a case where one very famous cock ‘limpfoot Christie’ was banned for failing a drugs test…

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Fake chicken on a stick used for training

Champion cocks are bred to produce future champions. Some of the main arenas in larger cities like Manila hold thousands and some men bet everything they earn hoping to have a big win. As well as hack fights, I saw advertisements for three cock derbies and fatal four way matches, I wouldn’t be surprised if they have an annual Royal Rumble where the winner takes on the champion at the annual PPV ‘Cockmania’, and yes, cockfighting is televised. I noticed school children swapping cockfighting stickers and one day I got a nice surprise when I opened a packet of crisps to find I had won a cockfighting pog…

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Most westerners are disgusted at cockfighting and believe that it is inhumane. This is no more cruel, than pumping a KFC chicken full of steroids, only for it to live a life of hell before being slaughtered and served up in a zinger burger, but yet most still eat it. To me, this is like going back to the days of gladiators fighting to the death at the Coliseum in Rome, and when in Rome, do it like the Romans, as in the end, there was no escaping cockfighting in the Philippines. I realised this one morning when I read front page newspaper headline “Champion Cock ‘Crazy’ Erik in hooker sex scandal!”

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Categories: Philippines | Tags: , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Cockfighting Through The Eyes Of A Kano

  1. Been following your posts lately. Looks like you’ve been all around the country. How’s your trip so far? 🙂

    • Went all over but so much we didn’t see! The trip has been amazing so far, we have now left the Philippines but hope you continue to follow my journey. PS you’re right, I never want to walk on land again!

  2. I like that you’ve avoided condemning the cockfighting practice in a snotty, my-way-is-the-best manner that many Westerners are guilty of doing – I know I’ve gotten into various arguments online with such folks about it, though most of the time a “totally clean up your animal rights record first before criticizing ours” kinda statement works in silencing them (except against super hardcore animal rights loons, that is, but then again they – like any kind of extremist – are hard to reason with).

    You may not have to like the practice (it’s your right after all), but at least you try to understand how it works and why it’s so important to the Philippines. For this I commend your post about the sport. 🙂

    PS: I do know of a German classmate of mine from high school who (together with his father) would sometimes drive off to the province to attend cockfighting matches cuz they actually enjoy it. True story.

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