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History of Cockfighting

The fighting cock was a subject of religious worship. According to Diodorus Siculus, the Ancient Syrians worshipped the fighting-cock as a deity. The Ancient Greeks and Romans associated the fighting-cock with the gods Apollo, Mercury and Mars. Magellan claimed that in Borneo, the bird was so sacred that no one could eat its flesh. In South Canara, the bird claimed to ward off evil demons. In Sumatra, the gamecock was worshipped, a temple built to it, and rituals performed to honor the deity. Cock fighting occurred in the temples and the dead bird which lost the battle was prepared to be presented to the deities. The bird would be placed in a gold cauldron, soaked in gums and spices. Then its body was burned on an altar and its ashes were placed in a golden pot or urn. Scott, "History of Cockfighting"

The history of cockfighting is hazy, there does not seem to be a definitive point in history as to when cockfighting became an official sport. In the times before Christ,approximately 3,000 years ago during the times of the Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Canaanites, cockfighting was popular. Breeding gamecocks for fighting in a pit was considered an art and trading these birds was profitable. In Egypt, in the time of Moses, cockfighting was a favorite pasttime. During the height of Greek civilization, Themistocles -- a general who was preparing to drive away the invading Persians -- decided to hold a cockfight the night before the battle to inspire his men by showing the courageous nature of the fighting cock. Persian traders loved to gamble by pitting their fighing birds against each other. They would often carry their birds with them and pit a fight in the marketplaces and trading centers.

In the first century after Christ, Julius Caesar led Rome into enjoying the sport of cockfighting. He was the first citizen of Rome to be an enthusiast of the sport. Caesar ultimately introduced cockfighting into England. In the 16th century, cockfighting was flourishing in England. During the time of King Henry VIII, cockfights were held at Whitehall Palace. The game became a national sport at one point and exclusive schools were required to teach students the points of cockfighting, such as breeding, walking, and conditioning of the gamecock. At its very height of popularity, even the clergy encouraged the sport. Church yards and inside of the churches were used as an arena for cockfighting. The sport declined in England during the reign of Queen Victoria in the 17th century, when she banned cockfighting with a royal decree. Today, cockfighting is almost nonexistent. However, in the British isles, there still esixts a breed of gamecocks known as the Pyles strain of Charles II that is a highly sought after bird by cockers and breeders.

In ancient Gaul, cockfighting was somehow brought into the country through travelling caravans or by those who returned from Rome or the East. During the Middle Ages in France, cockfighting was very popular. Eventually, France adopted the cock as a national emblem. Today, cockfighting has been driven underground.

In Spain, cockfighting has existed for the longest period of time. How it arrived is uncertain. Theories point to travelling Phoenicians or the conquering Moors. Today, cockfighting is a popular sport in Bilbao, Oviedo, Madrid, Barcelon, and Valencia. Many Filipino breeders travel to Spain to obtain ideal birds for breeding. Many gamecocks in the Philippines have a blood strain of Spanish game cocks.

In the United States, famous presidents who were lovers of the game were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, and Abraham Lincoln. It was socially acceptable and encouraged for a gentleman to have a flock of gamecocks and to be an expert on the sport. At one point, the U.S. became a center for cockfighting activities and events. Cockfights were even held in the committee rooms of the President. It is said that the fighting-cock almost became the national emblem. It lost by one vote to the American eagle. Cockfighting declined when the civil war started.

In the Thailand, it was said cockfighting was already popular by the time the establishment of Ayutthaya as the capital of the Thai Kingdom in A.D.1350. It was recorded that in 1562, When Crown Prince Naresuan was seven years of age, he was taken captive by the Burmese to ensure the fidelity of his father, who was already a prominent prince, as the Ayutthaya Kingdom was under Burmese occupation. During his stay in Burma, Crown Prince Naresuan was highly trained by the Burmese King Bayinnaung (Thai language: Burinnaung or Burengnong) in martial arts, literature and military strategies, and was reared as one of the princes in the Burmese Palace. After spending nine years of his youth at Pegu under the protection of the Burmese king, Naresuan like watching cockfights when stay in Burma.