Jean Alexandre Joseph FalguiÃ¨re,
Le Vainqueur au Combat de Coqs
(Victor of the Cockfight), 1864
The sport of the cock fight is said to have been introduced into Ancient Greece by Themistocles. The latter, while advancing with his army against the invading Persians, observed two cocks fighting, and, stopping his troops, inspired them by calling their attention to the valor and obstinacy of the feathered warriors. In honor of the subsequent Greek victory, cockfights were thenceforth held annually at Athens, at first in a patriotic and religious spirit, but afterwards purely for the love of the sport.
In England, cockfighting rivaled horse racing in popularity. The prohibition of the sport by Cromwell during the Protectorate was traditionally viewed as a high water mark of Puritan tyranny.
Cockfighting has an extensive literature and sporting tradition, and its own technical language and ethos. Cockfighting was historically one of the few sporting activities where the different classes of society mingled. The ground on which matches between gamecocks were conducted was traditionally referred to as “the sod.” An old saying holds that: “On the turf and on the sod, all men are equal.” Implying that only there does such equality exist, of course.
Cockfighting was extremely popular in early America. The founding fathers, including Washington and Jefferson, were devoted to the sport. Andrew Jackson bred gamecocks. Even Abraham Lincoln refereed matches. But the spirit of Puritan intolerance has always struggled for the suppression of all of modes of the expression of humanity’s fighting instincts and natural love of sport.
Cockfighting was banned in Massachusetts in 1836, and the bluenosed bigots gradually got their way in every US state, with the exception of Louisiana and New Mexico where the sport remained protected as a highly prized cultural property of local non-English-speaking communities.
The sport now has been sacrificed in New Mexico, however, to the calculating political ambition of the current governor, Bill Richardson, who decided he needed to get in-line with the Puritan left on an “animal rights” issue, and who feared being identified in a campaign for national office as governor of a state so primitive and retarditaire as to tolerate the existence of a fighting sport. Richardson broke campaign promises to constituents that he would protect the sport as long as he remained governor.
Let’s hope that Richardson’s scheming treachery is not rewarded.
Jean-LÃ©on GÃ©rome, Jeunes Grecs Faisant Battre de Coqs (Young Greeks Conducting a Cockfight), 1846, Louvre