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).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.