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THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE
THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

Cockfighting arenas around the country are being allowed to resume after breeders met with the Prime Minister on 25th March.  The areas which often are crowded with exited spectators packed together for prolonged periods of time were seen as ideal breeding grounds for infection transmission with many cases traced back to these arenas.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

In recent times arrests have been made and charges laid for both illegal gambling and conducting cockfighting competitions which violated the health safety measures as part of the Emergency Decree. 

Although the announcement has been greeted with some derision by expats who are largely unaware of the popularity of the sport and or consider it to be a somewhat crude and cruel pastime, cockfighting in Thailand is very popular and has been a part of the country’s culture for several hundred years; it’s a big deal!

Said to be the world’s oldest spectator sport, it is governed by stringent rules. It is illegal for the cocks to use artificial spurs that can cause serious injuries. Instead, owners use padded metal spurs, called gaffes, to lessen their impact. The “fight to the death rule” is also outlawed, so cocks do live to fight again.  

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

There is a lot of excitement around the rings with people shouting, yelling out to the birds, to each other, laughing and commiserating with one another. Although illegal, it is readily apparent that betting between spectators is a large part of the appeal; albeit that the police will raid a cock fighting event from time to time.

From Bangkok to remote rural villages in the mountains, cock fighting is like a national sport just like soccer or Thai boxing.  In the early evenings, Thai farmers and workers can often be seen crowded around a TV watching a rooster fight on the local channel.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

The nation’s biggest cockfighting arena is outside of Bangkok and holds up to 2,000 fans and at a recent fight the winner received a 2 million THB cash prize. But it seems just as many people gather in the forests, empty lots, underneath bridges or in warehouses watching the roosters fight; and gambling.

The only person allowed into the pit during the fight is the referee. Fairness is the name of the game in Thailand; before a cockfight, owners gather to compare the weight of their birds so that they can match up good fighting pairs.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

In the past the loser was easily determined; it was the rooster that died. Nowadays, the roosters usually have five 10-minute rounds of fighting and are judged by fighting style. The spurs of the fighting cock have to be covered or removed and if the rooster runs or flies out of the ring twice or sustains a serious injury then the fight is brought to an end.

However, most owners will stop a fight before there is too much damage done as these roosters are not cheap. One recently sold for 3 million THB.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

At six weeks old, breeders select the chicks that already show promise of being good strong fighters. They are fed a special high-protein, low-fat diet to build up their strength. They may also be given steam baths with lemongrass to toughen up their skin. Fighting cocks live for about ten years but only two or three of those years are spent fighting.

It is also a requirement that all cockfighting birds register with the Livestock Department, where they receive a “Fighting Cock Passport”. This is a requirement that has been in place ever since the outbreak of avian flu, in 2004. The identity cards certify the vaccination records of the birds.

Although no definitive proof exists, legend has it that cockfighting was a spectator sport in Thailand by 1350 A.D. In 1562, Crown Prince Naresuan was captured by the Burmese when he was seven-years-old, to ensure that the prince’s father stayed loyal to the Burmese King.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE

It is said that the Prince, who grew up watching and enjoying cockfights, took part in one with a Burmese Prince and won. Today, in murals often depict the fights between the Burmese Prince’s roosters and Prince Naresuan’s birds.  In Cha-Am a monument to the king includes many statues of roosters in recognition of that battle.

THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE
THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE
THAILAND’S FIGHTING COCKS ARE BACK; THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR MANY THAI PEOPLE
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