Cockfighting in Thai Culture

Out of all the spectator sports in the world, cockfighting is one of the oldest ones that is still practiced today. For more than 6000 years, game-fowl were used to fight for sport, an expression for masculinity, or because of tradition. Many regions see this spectator sport as a cultural identity, and it’s quite lucrative as well. In Thailand, cockfighting is not considered animal cruelty at all and it’s an event that brings people together. Read on to learn more about it and how it’s considered to be the most popular pastime in Thailand. 

What Is Cockfighting?

This is a spectator sport that involves two roosters or cockerels fighting in an arena or pit. It is considered a blood sport because the animals get badly injured and die when the fight ends. It is a brutal event to spectate and it has been going on for centuries. Depending on the region, trainers of these gamecocks attach sharp blades or metal spurs to the animal’s legs and feet. This tactic increases the physical trauma that these animals inflict on each other. The cock that stays alive wins the match, but even the winners die from the severe injuries they’ve sustained in the arena. 

Cockfighting is extremely popular, even after so many years. This industry has thousands of breeders and trainers that condition the gamecocks to have more strength and stamina than your usual rooster. The reason why it’s so easy to have them fight instantly is that cocks have natural aggression towards each other. The males are born with the instincts to fight off other male roosters to assert dominance. You can see these animals attack each other instantly when they step into the arena or pit. The event is so popular and entertaining that people go to great lengths to organize them, even if their region forbids it.

Is Cockfighting Animal Cruelty?

The majority of the world sees this sport as animal cruelty and millions of people do not condone it. Understandably, the sport has had a bad history and track record, especially since thousands of these animals die every year. However, people in Thailand are regulating fights and changing people’s perceptions about the sport. They have managed to change the process to have a kind and non-brutal fight in the arena during these events. The organizers and trainers in Thailand choose to have a wrapped style of cockfighting, covering the gamecock’s talons, legs, and beaks. The people can enjoy this part of their heritage without severely injuring the animals or getting them killed at the end.

The unwrapped style is the popular method of organizing these events and it has been the norm for 6000 years. The fights can last between 2 to 3 minutes, ending in a bloodbath that is too brutal to witness. The animals end up dying or severely injured and maimed for the rest of their lives. The government in Thailand changed this style and they are promoting the peaceful method of cockfighting that even children can watch and enjoy. It is much better to see these animals walk out of the fighting pits with minimal injuries that they can recover from easily. The gamecocks there are seen as boxers that fight to see who is the fastest and the strongest in the arena.

Cockfighting and Popular Culture in Thailand

The remarkable fact that the world can see in Thailand is that the wrapped style of this sport brings people together. The size and scope of this industry attract over 200 thousand spectators every week, including women and children. There is a lot of money to be made from these fights, even though gambling isn’t legal in Thailand. The government has exceptions to the rule and sanctions betting for contests between animals that are safe and humane. People can even log on from their homes to enjoy some of the best cock fighting ( or ไก่ชน in Thai) matches and they are allowed to place bets on reputable platforms online. These events are mainstream and popular, making it a sacred tradition that every member of the family can be a part of. Gambling and the chance to earn some money makes these cockfights a lot more thrilling and entertaining for numerous people, even if they don’t believe in the tradition.  

Cockfighting in Thailand is Big Business

The business of cockfighting is booming and it supports hundreds of licensed venues that organize weekly fights. It is a lucrative industry that continues to generate a lot of money every year. The billion-dollar business continues to grow in Thailand, especially since the people there accept it. The culture and behavioral aspects of the Thai people help the industry from getting banned. Even the small unlicensed organizers are freely enjoying this sport, and gambling is still technically legal when it comes to these fights. The wrapped style is not considered violent or cruel, making the government approve of these arenas and stadiums to host cockfights. With that level of support, the industry will continue to grow and generate more money every week.

In Thailand, this is a serious business that goes beyond the fights in the pits or arenas. The country has magazines and booklets that promote the industry, having news reports, information about the sport, gamecocks for sale, and even match results. Several pharmaceutical companies have developed nutritional supplements for trainers and breeders to give to the animals, making them stronger and faster than normal roosters. Also, premium roosters are highly sought after by a lot of investors that want to get into the cockfighting game. Some gamecocks can cost up to 5 million Thai Baht, making the industry expand to the selling and trading of fighting cocks. It is so mainstream and popular that some investors are willing to pay 20 million Thai Baht for rare and prized gamecocks.  

Cockfighting Tournaments and Championships

Cockfights have several tournaments and championships that are held annually. The final and most important fights are held in the largest stadiums in Thailand, drawing a lot of attention and money. Winning cocks from previous tournaments are crowned champions and the best two fight each other for trophies, recognition, glory, and cash prize rewards. These rewards can reach up to 6.6 million Thai Baht and that is equivalent to 200 thousand dollars. The usage of stadiums is needed to ensure high-quality matches and to follow the legal guidelines given by the government. These final events are extremely packed with fans and spectators. Organizers need the largest stadiums in the country to accommodate the large following of fans. 

How Are Gamecocks Bred and Trained?

Gamecocks are bred and trained specifically for fighting and they are not left on farms like the normal roosters. They are given specific diets and supplements to help them grow into the fierce and strong animals we see in the fighting pits. They are conditioned for increased strength and speed, training them 10 times a day with sparring matches. The matches usually last for 5 to 10 minutes and they are properly wrapped for protection. Fighting cocks shed a lot of feathers growing up and they have broader and thicker bone structure compared to normal roosters. Daily exercises will maximize their endurance and strength levels tremendously, making them excellent fighters for the arena.

The Legality of Cockfighting

Thailand is one of the few countries that legalize the sport and approve it completely, but organizers should follow specific guidelines to ensure that their license doesn’t get revoked. The rules are for the safety of the animals, ensuring that the legal matches should always be the wrapped style fights. Attaching metal spurs or blades is forbidden and the cock’s natural spurs should be covered before the match. The matches should be in rounds, lasting 20 to 30 minutes each, making the matches last around 2 to 3 hours. The animals should be taken care of between rounds. The trainers should give them the same treatment as a boxer, calming them down, smoothing their feathers, and treating any bruises or wounds. These humane rules govern the sport and make it the successful spectacle that it is today. As long as each venue follows these rules, the fights can carry on and gambling will be allowed.

The History of Cockfights

The people of Thailand believe that this is a revered sport that should be practiced and enjoyed. It all started with King Naresuan the Great in the late 1500s and early 1600s. The Ayutthaya Kingdom practiced and organized these events regularly, even after he died in 1605. The country has shrines of the king and his fighting rooster, commemorating his achievements and accomplishments against the Burmese prince. When the king was 7 years old, he was taken hostage to force his father’s demilitarization. Naresuan defeated the Burmese prince, Mingyi Swa, and defeated him again in a duel when they grew up. It was a major battle in Thailand’s history that proved how Naresuan was a smart tactician. He found the prince on his elephant in the shade and away from the battle. The king challenged him to a duel and they had a legendary fight riding elephants. When the king won the duel, the war was over and the people celebrated his victory ever since with cockfighting. 

Gamecocks are Descendants of Dinosaurs

What makes this sport even more thrilling is that roosters are descendants of dinosaurs. They are the distant relatives of the Maniraptoriformes group of dinosaurs that had wings and feathers. This line eventually reached the Avialae group, which are the normal birds we see today, and the Galliformes group of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds. Roosters/cockerels are part of that group and it makes the fighting pits that much interesting once you know this fact. Watching the descendants of dinosaurs fighting in the arena makes the sport more thrilling and exciting. The Thai people know and respect this fact, promoting more safe fights with wrapped styles to ensure the safety of these majestic animals.  

Animal Rights Activism Against Cockfighting

Several animal rights activists have protested against these fights and some of them have taken legal action against the organizers and venues that host them. However, it is a vital part of their culture, stopping animal rights activists from abolishing cockfighting from the country. When the event is viewed as something part of the heritage and culture, it makes it sacred enough to stop any legal action against it. Also, there is a lot of money to be made from this industry and every investor would have the strongest legal team to defend them and their interests if they were ever taken to court. The government supports the fights and they do not revoke any licenses if the organizers follow the legal guidelines. The gambling act in 1935 permits all wagers and bets legally on cockfights as well. Due to these reasons, animal rights activists have not been successful so far to stop these events completely.

Will Cockfighting Ever Be Legal Worldwide?

It is unlikely that this sport will become legal in every country, especially since most of them have laws and regulations that forbid animal blood sports completely. The US, Australia, Argentina, Costa Rica, Brazil, France, India, Netherlands, Spain, and many others consider cockfighting as a crime. It is viewed as animal cruelty and anyone caught organizing or watching it will be subjected to huge fines and jail time. Unsanctioned and underground fighting pits are common anyway because of the thrilling matches that people can witness. Even with the peaceful wrapped style fights, it isn’t guaranteed that these countries will change their regulations. 


Will It Ever Be Legal Worldwide

Thailand does all it can to keep the sport safe for the animals, making sure that every gamecock is protected. Cockfighting is still considered to be a controversial event that should be banned, but the Thai people are proving that it doesn’t have to be a blood sport that everyone hates. They ensure safe practices are being regulated constantly. It isn’t clear or guaranteed if the world will ever open up to the idea of animal fighting and spectator sports using game fowl, but this sport will not die out anytime soon.