The combatants, known as gamecocks are specially bred birds, 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. Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. Cocks are given the best of care until near the age of two years old. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match. While not all fights are to the death, the cocks do endure physical trauma that may result in death. Cockfighting was at one time considered to be an accepted, traditional sporting event in the United States. In many other areas around the world, cockfighting is still practiced as a mainstream event; in some countries it is government controlled.
Cockfighting is considered a heinous blood sport by animal welfare activists and others, due in some part to the physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other. Advocates of the sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons for perpetuation of cockfighting as a sport; however, there has been little evidence that those involved in it (in the U.S.A.) participate in it for religious or cultural purposes. Cock Fighting is outlawed in the United States in America.
In some regional variations, the birds are equipped with either metal spurs (called gaffs) or knives, tied to the leg in the area where the bird's natural spur has been partially removed. A cockspur is a bracelet (often made of leather) with a curved, sharp spike which is attached to the leg of the bird. The spikes typically range in length from "short spurs" of just over an inch to long spurs almost two and a half inches long. In the highest levels of seventeenth century English cockfighting, the spikes were made of silver. In the naked heel variation, the bird's natural spurs are left intact and sharpened: fighting is done without gaffs or taping, particularly in India (especially in Tamil Nadu) There it is mostly fought naked heel and either three rounds of twenty minutes with a gap of again twenty minutes or four rounds of fifteen minutes each and a gap of fifteen minutes between them.
Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Italy, Philippines, Peru, Puerto Rico, Canary Islands and Guam have arenas with seats or bleachers for spectators surrounding the ring. In many countries, the spectacle of cockfighting is as popular as baseball and football are in the United States. Among the competitors who raise fighting cocks, there is great pride in the prowess of their birds and in winning a championship.
In Aguascalientes, a state capital, one of the city's principal concert halls is the cockfighting arena, the palenque. During the San Marcos Fair, well-known throughout Mexico, cockfights alternate with important concerts, where the singers or dancers perform from the cockpit. Many popular singers have performed there, e.g. Latin Grammy winners Alejandro Fernandez and Alejandra Guzman .
Cockfighting (Vetrukkaal seval porr in Tamil which means "naked heel cock fight") (Kodi Pandem in Telugu) (Kori katta in Tulu) is favourite sport of people living in the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts of Karnataka, India. Three or four inch blades (Bal in Tulu) are attached to the cocks' legs. Knockout fights to the death are widely practised in Andhra Pradesh. In Tamil Nadu, the winner is decided after three or four rounds. People watch with intense interest surrounding the cocks. The sport has gradually become a gambling sport.
Cockfighting is popular in Pakistan. Betting is illegal, but police often turn a blind eye towards it. In Sindh (one of 4 major provinces), people are fond of keeping fighting cock breed, known as "Sindhi aseel" in Pakistan. These cocks are noted being tall, heavy and good at fighting. Cock-fighting is popular in rural areas, despite the fact that animal-fighting is banned under Islamic Law.
Legal cockfights are held on cockpits every week. Illegal cockfights, called tupada, happen any time in open areas. In both kind of cockfights, knives are used. Gloves are used for training purposes only.
Derbies are also held. These are cockfights where owners will field a fixed number of cocks. (e.g. 3-cock derby or 6-cock derby). The one with the most wins, wins the jackpot. The Philippines has hosted several World Slasher Derby.
There are 2 kinds of knives used in Philippine cockfighting. The single blade (use in derbies) and double blades.
All knives are attached on the left leg of the cock. But depending on the agreement between owners, blades can be attached on the right leg, or even on both legs.
Sabong and illegal tupada, are judged by a referee called sentensyador, whose verdict is final and not subject to any appeal.
According to the RSPCA, cockfighting in England and Wales still takes place, but has declined in recent years.
Cockfighting has a tradition in some American cultures and history. It is said that some founding fathers participated in cockfighting including Washington and Jefferson. With the influx of immigrants from Central America and Asia, they have each added new forms of cockfighting.
In the United States, cockfighting is illegal in all 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C.. The last state to implement a state law banning cockfighting was Louisiana; the Louisiana State Legislature voted to approve a Louisiana ban in June 2007. The ban took effect in August 2008. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia have made cockfighting a felony, and it is illegal in 40 states and the District of Columbia to be a spectator at cockfights. Animal welfare activists continue to lobby for a ban on the sport. Cockfighting remains legal in the United States territories of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam, although in 2006, the Virgin Islands adopted a law banning the use of artificial spurs.
The Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, a federal law that made it a crime to transfer cockfighting implements across state or national borders and increasing the penalty for violations of federal animal fighting laws to three years in prison became law in 2007. It passed the House of Representatives 368-39 and the Senate by unanimous consent and was signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Cockfighting has inspired artists in several fields to create works which depict the activity. Several organizations, including the University of South Carolina, Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, and London football team Tottenham Hotspur F.C. have a gamecock as their mascot and the University of Delaware's mascot is the Fightin' Blue Hen. The Alex Haley novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family and the miniseries based on it include scenes of cockfighting and films that include scenes of the sport include the 1965 film The Cincinnati Kid, the 1974 film Cockfighter, directed by Monte Hellman (based on the novel of the same name by Charles Willeford). In literature, a description of a bordertown cockfight fiesta can be found in On the Border: Portraits of America’s Southwestern Frontier. Scenes of cockfighting have been seen in TV episodes of such programmes as Seinfeld ("The Little Jerry"), House ("Humpty Dumpty"), Drawn Together ("Mexican't Buy Me Love"),and "Roots (TV miniseries)".
Cockfighting has also been mentioned in songs such as Kings of Leon's Four Kicks and Bob Dylan's song "Cry a while" from the album Love and Theft. The story song El Gallo del Cielo by Tom Russell is entirely about cockfighting, and the lyrics utilize detailed imagery of fighting pits, gamecocks, and gambling on the outcome of the fights.
The Expressionist painter Sir Robin Philipson, of Edinburgh, was well known for his series of works that included depictions of cockfighting.
Wilford Brimley is a high profile supporter of cockfighting. He campaigned unsuccessfully in Arizona and New Mexico against laws banning cockfighting.
The computer game Deus Ex: Invisible War contains a pub that holds "greasel fights", where escaped transgenic creatures ("greasels") are used in place of gamecocks.