From Academic Kids

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The Cock Fight by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1847)

A cockfight is a contest, held in a cockpit between two fighting cocks (roosters) trained to severely injure and/or kill one another. Usually wagers are made on the outcome of the match, the surviving bird being declared the winner. Roosters intended to participate in cockfights are often specially bred and trained with this in mind. It is considered a traditional sporting event by some, and a barbarous case of animal cruelty by others.

In some regional variations, the birds are equipped with artificial steel spurs known as gaffs, which allow the birds to kill much quicker. In other variations, the bird's feet are wrapped to lengthen the bouts. Fighting done without gaffs or taping often is called "naked heel".

The concept of cockfighting has been generalized to fighting amongst other animals. For instance, some people train dogs to fight.

In old England, cockfighting, together with the more barbarous sport of throwing at cocks, was the chief amusement on Shrove Tuesday. However, public opinion has declared against these sports in an unmistakable manner.

"Cock-fighting and bear-baiting", as Dr Johnson said, "may raise the spirit of a company, just as drinking does, but they will never improve the conversation of those who take part in them."

In many places, animal fights have been specifically outlawed, based on opposition to gambling, opposition to cruelty to animals, or both. In the United States cockfighting is illegal in Washington, D.C. and all but two states - those being New Mexico and Louisiana, and it is legal as well in the U.S. Territory of Puerto Rico. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have made cockfighting a felony. Thirty states and Washington, D.C. have made it illegal to possess roosters for fighting. It is also illegal in 40 states and Washington, D.C. to be a spectator at cockfights. On the Federal level, the Animal Welfare Act makes it illegal to engage in interstate transportation of cocks.

Despite cockfighting being illegal in nearly the entire United States, illegal cockfighting is known to take place on a national level. Law enforcement has stated that illegal gambling takes place at cockfights, and that many thousands of dollars can change hands during the event. Income from cockfights is usually unreported income. Authorities have also noted that the distribution of illegal drugs is often connected to cockfights, that investigations of drug activity usually leads to the discovery of cockfights. Violent crimes, up to and including murder, have been connected to cockfights. Children are often present at cockfights, leading to concern that they are being desensitized to the suffering of others and they are being encouraged to use violence against others.

In 1759, the English artist William Hogarth published a satire on cockfighting in his print, The Cockpit. See also the video game Pokémon, which has often been labeled as a cockfighting simulation. In the Pokemon game, generally played by pre-teens and teens, animated "trainers" pit imaginary animal-type creatures with individualized powers against each other in a restricted arena.

The ban on cockfighting has resulted in several breeds being developed from pit game stock for the show bench or other purposes, with Modern Game (extreme long legs being a characteristic) and Old English bantam (amongst the smallest of the chicken breeds) being notable and very popular show bench examples. A more important example is the Cornish (developed from the Aseel pit game breed) which forms the basis for the fryer/broiler industry.

Cockfighting was once a popular subject in art. The painting "The Cockfight" by Jean-Léon Gérôme and the statue "Winner of the Cockfight" by Alexandre Falguière, both in the Musée d'Orsay, are notable examples, although in these cases the emphasis is more on the nude bodies of the birds' owners than on the fights themselves.

Recent Events

On June 11, 2005 a number of law enforcement agents raided a cockfight in Newport, Tennessee - about 40 miles east of Knoxville. Authorities said that this was one of the largest cockfights in the United States. The agents - which were comprised of people from several agencies - arrested 144 people, destroyed over 300 roosters, and confiscated $40,000 in cash. One owner stated he lost 20 chickens valued at $150 each during the raid.

The 144 people arrested were booked on charges of being a spectator at a cockfight, as Tennessee is one of the states that considers the act to be a misdemeanor. Anyone found guilty of those charges faces up to 11 months and 29 days in jail, plus fines up to $2,500. [1] (

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