A cockfight in an arena.A cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), who fight each other to the death while people place bets.  These roosters are specially bred and 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 (the standard emerged from the older practice of severing the comb, wattles, and earlobes of the bird in order to remove anatomical vulnerabilities, similar to the practice of docking a dog’s tail and ears). 

Left to themselves, roosters rarely hurt each other badly. While it is true that birds will fight over food, territory, or mates, such fights are generally only to establish dominance within a group (the pecking order) and seldom result in serious injury. In cockfights, on the other hand, the birds often wear razor-sharp blades on their legs and incur injuries like punctured lungs, broken bones and pierced eyes—when they even survive.  In staged cockfights, pairs of birds, bred for maximum aggression (and sometimes given steroids or other drugs to make them more successful fighters), are forced to fight until a winner is declared.  Cockfighters let the birds suffer untreated injuries or throw the birds away like trash afterwards.

Laws Regarding Cockfighting

In many places, cockfights and other animal fights have been outlawed, often based on opposition to gambling or animal cruelty.  In the United States, cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.   It is also illegal in all 50 states to knowingly attend a cockfight and/or bring a minor to the event.  In some American states it is not illegal to possess, raise, train, advertise, or trade cocks or accoutrements that could be used for cockfighting. However, actively participating in a cockfight in any manner is illegal: advertising, transporting participants or spectators, placing wagers, hosting an event, etc. It is common for law enforcement to confiscate property associated with any cockfighting activity. 

The Horrors of Cock Fighting

cock-fighting-4-spurCockfighting is a blood sport due in some part to the physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other, which is sometimes increased for entertainment purposes by attaching metal spurs to the cocks’ natural spurs. While not all fights are to the death, the cocks may endure significant physical trauma. Even birds who aren’t killed during cockfights suffer terribly. Regardless of how exhausted or injured they become (common injuries include punctured lungs, broken bones, and pierced eyes), the birds cannot escape from the fighting pit. The razor-sharp steel blades or “gaffs” (which resemble 3-inch-long, curved ice picks) tied to the birds’ legs are so sharp and dangerous that cockfighters themselves have been killed when accidentally slashed by their own birds. 

Related Concerns

Besides being cruel, cockfighting often goes hand in hand with gambling, drug dealing, illegal gun sales and murder.  Law enforcement officials have documented a strong connection between cockfighting and the distribution of illegal drugs. Drug enforcement agents often learn about animal fighting operations as a result of narcotics investigations. 

Sadly, some people even bring children to cockfights, which can teach kids to enjoy violence and think that animal suffering is okay.  The presence of young children at cockfights is an especially disturbing element. Exposure to such brutality can promote insensitivity toward animal suffering and enthusiasm for violence.

What Can I Do to Make a Difference?

  1. Speak Up! If you know of or suspect you know the location of a cockfighter – report it to your local law enforcement agency. DO NOT go on their property since this could be dangerous, is against the law and could interfere in the prosecution of a confirmed dog fighter You can request a follow up report from your police department or contact a local animal welfare organization, like HSO, and ask that they follow up. The Humane Society of the United States offers a $5,000 reward for information leading to a conviction of illegal cockfighting. *The Humane Society of the United States is NOT an umbrella entity for the Humane Society of the Ozarks. They share no information, grants or funding of any sort with HSO so we will have no knowledge of the situation to follow up with. If you would like HSO to follow up with the local law enforcement you must contact us directly.
  2. Spread the Word! Help spread the word so others know just how horrific this type of animal abuse truly is. By speaking up you can make a difference!
  3. Vote! Make sure you take the time to vote in favor of any legislation that can limit or shut down cockfighting. Each vote makes a difference!

For more information:  Cockfighting FAQ (ASPCA)