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The Cockfight

A Casebook

Edited by Alan Dundes

Publication Year: 1994

Originating more than 2500 years ago, cockfighting is one of the oldest documented sports in the world.  It has continued to flourish despite bans against it in many countries.  In The Cockfight: A Casebook, folklorist Alan Dundes brings together a diverse array of writing on this male-dominated ritual.
    Vivid descriptions of cockfights from Puerto Rico, Tahiti, Ireland, Spain, Brazil, and the Philippines complement critical commentaries, from the fourth-century reflections of St. Augustine to contemporary anthropological and psychoanalytic interpretations.  The various essays discuss the intricate rules of the cockfight, the ethical question of pitting two equally matched roosters in a fight to the death, the emotional involvement of cockfighters and fans, and the sexual implications of the sport.  The result is an enlightening collection for anthropologists, folklorists, sociologists, and psychologists, as well as followers of this ancient blood sport.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

The cockfight, in which two equally matched roosters-typically bred and raised for such purposes and often armed with steel spurs (gaffs)-engage in mortal combat in a circular pit surrounded by mostly if not exclusively male spectators, is one of the oldest recorded human games or sports. It is at least 2500 years old, and it appears to have originated somewhere in southeast Asia. ...

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pp. x-2

I thank the indefatigable staff of the Interlibrary Borrowing Service of Doe Library at the University of California, Berkeley, for their remarkable expertise in locating hard-to-find obscure publications on cockfighting. I am also indebted to Rafaela Castro Belcher and Margot Winer for their bibliographical surveys of cockfighting compiled in my folklore theory seminars in 1976 ...

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A Barnyard Cockfight of the Fourth Century

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pp. 3-6

Thereupon I also arose. And when our daily prayers to God had been said, we began to go to the baths; for that place was comfortable and suitable for our disputation, whenever we could not be in the field on account of inclement weather. Suddenly we noticed barnyard cocks beginning a bitter fight just in front of the door. We chose to watch. For what do the eyes of lovers...

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A Cock Fight from the Ming Dynasty

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pp. 7-8

When I lived in the hills one of my neighbours to the south was a man named Chin, a minor official who lived a quiet life and whose hobby was keeping beautiful fowl. Another neighbour, Chiang, lived a quiet life as a merchant. Once Chiang brought back a huge cock from the north. All northern fowls are large, but this one was a monster with legs over a foot long, coarse feathers...

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The Rules of Cockfighting

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pp. 9-16

No one knows why or when man first put fowl into a pit and let the game male do as he had done in the wilds for thousands of years: fight brother against brother until one cock ruled. No one knows why or when man first intervened and institutionalized part of the natural process that enabled the fittest to survive: the killing of all the competing roosters...

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A London Cockpit and Its Frequenters

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pp. 17-25

We shall now give a description of a London cockpit and its frequenters with some touches at character by an amateur:- "I was sitting, some evenings ago, in my room, at the first coming of twilight, which in our Albany rooms is fond of paying early visits-my head was indolently hung back upon the red morocco top of my easy chair, and my hands were hung like two dangling bell ropes over each arm of my seat-and in this position...

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Cock-Fighting in Puerto Rico

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pp. 25-29

The only real recreation of the rural Puertorique

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A Cockfight in Tahiti

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pp. 30-37

It was half-past eleven when Jonas and his family came home from church. He walked first, with Mama Ruau, followed by Ropati in his wheelchair, then the others in indiscriminate fashion, the babies in arms, the small children kicking up the dust with their bare feet, all of them seemingly determined, despite their elders, to soil their Sabbath clothes thoroughly before they reached home. The church...

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California Cockfight

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pp. 38-44

When Tod told Claude Estee about the cock fight, he wanted to go with him. They drove to Homer's place together. It was one of those blue and lavender nights when the luminous color seems to have been blown over the scene with an air brush. Even the darkest shadows held some purple. A car stood in the driveway of the garage with its headlights on. They could...

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An Irish Cockfight

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pp. 45-53

Turnpike Road ran along the back of the White Willow hotel. It ran as straight as a die for the first half mile before beginning its climb on to Patriot's Hill. The road on that fine summer's evening was choked with men on foot. Halfway up the hill on the right -hand side of the Pike stood a huge corregated barn. For the crowds on the road that balmy summer evening the barn was the only...

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The Birds of Death

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pp. 54-65

The four matches had been made for 5000 pesos each. They were between Fernando Solis and Antonio Chapa, the two best breeders in Nuevo Laredo. If it had been bullfighting it would have all seemed matter-of-fact. But it was not bullfighting, it was cockfighting and it was illegal. The last fights of the season had been held in the interior of Texas, and now the only action a cockfighter could hope for until the fall was along...

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The Fraternity of Cockfighters: Ethical Embellishments of an Illegal Sport

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pp. 66-80

The more enthusiastic supporters of cockfighting claim it is the oldest sport in the world.1 This is impossible to prove, but it seems safe to conjecture that the sport of fighting chickens was contemporaneous with their domestication, which may have occurred as early as 3000 B.C. Admiration for and even adoration of the gamecock unquestionably reaches far into antiquity. It was the...

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Questions from a Study of Cockfighting

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pp. 81-93

Why study cockfighting? Well, why not? It's there-not exactly the Everest of social phenomena, but it's there. Or at least it was. Consider the Wickery, an emporium of gift items and antiques just north of Tallahassee. The large barn-like structure isn't very striking, until one notices its peculiarities: the large opening in the ceiling of its ground floor is not at all well suited...

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Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight

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pp. 94-132

Early in April of 1958, my wife and I arrived, malarial and diffident, in a Balinese village we intended, as anthropologists, to study. A small place, about five hundred people, and relatively remote, it was its own world. We were intruders, professional ones, and the villagers dealt with us as Balinese seem always to deal with people not part of their life who yet press themselves...

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Cock or Bull: Cockfighting, Social Structure, and Political Commentary in the Philippines

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pp. 133-173

Few travellers to the Philippines fail to notice the large, ramshackle, silver domed cockpits that stud the lowland landscape. Every Sunday morning, in thousands of villages throughout the Philippines, these rickety, trembling constructions fill to the rafters and beyond with anxious, eager men convinced that this is the day when they will pick only winners and return home rich. Nor are cockpits confined to rural areas. Every city, if it is really a city...

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The Cockfight in Andalusia, Spain: Images of the Truly Male

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pp. 174-190

Anthropologists who have worked in Andalusia have emphasized the vital importance, for both men and women, of the management of their sexual identities.1 My particular interest in this area is that of masculinity, men's image of true maleness and the symbolic and expressive processes in celebratory or festive events which serve to emphasize that image. Men in this culture...

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Zooanthropology of the Cockfight in Martinique

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pp. 191-207

How is it that the last words of the first and greatest Greek philosopher, Socrates, were devoted to a reference to a cock? And how is it that no one, as far as we know, has been aware of this peculiar and final reference? Did this species previously play the role which, much later in the imaginary and symbolic system of the human intellect and language, western anthropology...

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The Gaucho Cockfight in Porto Alegre, Brazil

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pp. 208-231

What do the two bleeding cocks fighting to their deaths mean to the breathless gauchos watching them? What understandings and emotions regarding what is at stake in each fight do these watchers share? In this essay I will search for an answer to these questions through an analysis of the cockfighting activities in Rio Grande do SuI, Brazil. Cockfighting is one among various discourse...

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Cockfighting on the Venezuelan Island of Margarita: A Ritualized Form of Male Aggression

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pp. 232-240

Cockfighting is central to the lives of the residents of San Fernando. One fishermen stated that: "You can die of hunger but there will always be a gallera (cockfighting rink)." Others claim that there is one in every town: "You may not be able to get food but there will be a gallera. There is one everywhere. If there is one house built, there will be a gall era." Cockfighting is a strictly male event that involves ritualistic and real aggression. Women are not welcome. In San Fernando, the rink is located...

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Gallus as Phallus: A Psychoanalytic Cross-Cultural Consideration of the Cockfight as Fowl Play

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pp. 241-284

The cockfight is one of the oldest, most documented and most widely distributed traditional sports known to man.* It has been reported in ancient India (Sarma 1964; Bhide 1967; Chattopadhyay 1973), ancient China (Cutter 1989a, b), ancient Iran (Modi 1911), and ancient Greece (Witte 1868). From Greece, cockfighting moved to Rome, as mosaics attest...

A Selected Bibliography

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pp. 285-288


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pp. 289-290

E-ISBN-13: 9780299140533
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299140540

Publication Year: 1994