History & Tradition

Cock Fight History

Cockfighting can be traced back to before the time of Christ with some scholars indicating that the sport had its start in India more that 4,600 years ago. The rooster had long been considered an admirable fowl before its entrance into the fighting arena. The ancient Syrians, for example, worshiped the rooster as a deity. In addition, the ancient Greeks and Romans associated the bird with the gods Apollo, Mercury and Mars.

Approximately 3,000 years ago cockfighting was popular with the Hebrews and Canaanites, and raising gamecocks was considered a skill with a lucrative end. For Egyptians cockfighting was a favored pastime and during the height of Greek civilization, a Greek general, Themistocles, held a cockfight the night before battle to inspire his men through the metaphor of the cockfight.

Persian traders loved to gamble by pitting their fighting birds against each other, and the popularity of the sport even stretched to the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar, the first citizen of Rome to become an aficionado of the sport, brought cockfighting to Rome.

It took a while for the sport to spread, but by the 16th century it was popular in many European countries, especially in England and France. During the reign of King Henry VIII, cockfighting became a national sport. Schools were even founded to teach students the fine points of cockfighting. At its very height of popularity, the sport was popular among the church members with churchyards being used as cockfighting arenas.

The sport was also very popular in the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were admirers of the sport and rumor has it that President Lincoln got his nickname “Honest Abe” for his fairness as a judge in cockfights. Overall, it was socially acceptable and encouraged to have gamecocks. The U.S. would eventually become a center for cockfighting activities and events, and the fighting-cock almost became the national emblem of the United States, losing by just one vote to the American eagle.

Today, cockfighting is a popular sport in many places around the world including Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Colombia, France, Mexico, Italy, the Philippines, Peru, Puerto Rico, the Canary Islands, Guam, India and Pakistan.

Cock Fight History In the Dominican Republic

Cockfighting is part of the Dominican culture. According to a history published by the cockfighting commission, the first fighting roosters arrived in the Dominican Republic in 1492 when Christopher Columbus landed on what became the Dominican Republic. It was brought to the Dominican Republic by the Spanish, maintaining its popularity during French and Haitian colonial rule. The rooster also has a significant place in Dominican history as it was and still is the symbol of the Partido Reforsmista Social Cristiano (PRSC). The PRSC morphed from the Trujillo-run Partido Dominicano to the PRSC after the dictator’s longtime right-hand man, intellectual Joaquin Balaguer took over the reins of the country in 1966 and governed, officially and extra-officially, until his death in 2000.

During this time, the symbol of the rooster gained a special place in the nuances of Dominican cultural identity and came to represent the virtues of the Dominican political spirit, further enamoring the public to this fowl. But social commentators like Gustav Jahoda claim that, “in many cultures, notably hunting-gathering ones, animals are believed to have souls and to be in close partnership with humans,” taking the argument a step further and presenting the idea that the ritualistic behavior of the cockfight represents the social dynamic which asserts a male’s place in Dominican society.

The reason men look to animals to describe themselves is because, according to Jahoda, there is an inherent connection between humans and animals, and thus understanding the affection between man and fowl is more plausible.

In looking at a cockfight, and its prominence as a national sport, one notices how a Dominican male views himself through the lens of the animal. “Like politics on Hispaniola, the cockfight is a male ritual,” writes Jahoda. The cockfight, and in turn the rooster, represent the spirit of the Dominican male, and this is why one can argue that cockfighting has carved a special place within the Dominican psyche.

Cock Fight Tradition

Dominicans Say Cockfighting Is in Their Blood. In the Dominican Republic, cockfighting is celebrated as a symbol of the country’s warrior spirit. Nearly every neighborhood and country village has a gallera, or cockfighting arena, and the sport is legal and regulated. Cockfighting is the second most popular sport in the Dominican Republic after baseball.