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cock-fighting

cock-fighting. A ferocious blood-sport, probably introduced by the Romans, in which intensively trained gamecocks with metal or bone spurs slipped over their natural ones were set to fight, usually to the death, on a stage in a circular pit. Mains (matches) were variously structured, with rules, the rowdy spectacles generally accompanied by heavy betting. A medieval Shrovetide schoolboy sport, and survivor of bans which claimed it interfered with archery practice, it flourished across all social classes and was a favourite pastime of royalty and the upper classes; numerous place-names involving the word ‘cock’ attest to the ease with which an arena could be set up. Forbidden briefly by the Commonwealth, its resurgence in Restoration England was typified by Charles II's own enthusiasm. The best cocks were valuable, and paintings frequently commissioned. County competition first showed itself in this sport, usually as three-day events and often associated with race meetings; Ireland quickly followed the English example. Opposition grew in the early 19th cent., but not all towns acquiesced readily; although banned in 1835 and 1849, it persisted in coal-mining areas, and still occurs secretly.

A. S. Hargreaves

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cockfighting

cockfighting, sport of pitting gamecocks against one other. Though popular in ancient Greece, Persia, and Rome, cockfighting has been long opposed by clergy and humane groups. Massachusetts passed (1836) the first law in the United States forbidding cockfighting; England banned it in 1849. Cockfighting jousts take place in a small circular pit into which the gamecocks—specially bred and trained for fighting—are placed beak to beak by their handlers and then released. A combatant wins when its opponent is unable to fight, or is killed. Metal spurs, occasionally attached to the fowl's natural spurs, make action deadlier. The sport is still popular in Latin America, Africa, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and the Middle East, and—despite its illegality—parts of the United States. It is nearly always the focus of frenzied gambling, as anthropologist Clifford Geertz noted in his famous study on the Balinese cockfight (1973).

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cockfighting

cock·fight·ing / ˈkäkˌfīting/ • n. the sport (illegal in certain countries) of setting two cocks to fight each other. Fighting cocks often have had their legs fitted with metal spurs. DERIVATIVES: cock·fight / ˈkäkˌfīt/ n.

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