Introduced to Britain by the Romans, cockfighting was popular among all social classes in Britain from the Middle Ages until the mid-nineteenth century. Cockpits were common in most villages and spectators travelled from near and far to attend the fights.
Whilst not many folks can remember seeing a cock fight in living memory in the UK, in Indonesia, as in many other countries, it is still a very popular pastime. For those of you of a delicate disposition I recommend it would be best to stop reading here and move on to the next post.
To attend a cock fight we needed to be suitably dressed in traditional attire. A bright longee wrapped around the waist and tucked in at the front and a bright material waste band for a belt.
We found the cock fighting ring in the neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan, connected by a suspension bridge to Lembongan. Cocks are by their nature aggressive towards each other and the birds are especially bred and fed to maximise their stamina and strength for fighting.
The place was an open sided building, made of wooden and concrete beams and with a shallow sloping pit like floor, surrounded by small terraces for the audience to sit or stand. It was rammed full to bursting of men placing bets on their chosen victor. Although there was a decent breeze it was uncomfortably hot under the tin roof and the air was clogged with cigarette smoke and dust. There was little doubt that this is a mainstream activity and the crowd was captivated. Not a woman was seen, I'm not sure if they are not allowed to attend or are just not interested in this cocky spectacle.
Firstly the birds where shown to each other by their owners, a sort of speed anti-dating, to see which pairings despised each other the most. When a pairing was established the owners then got to choose a blade from within a pre-determined wallet. The blade was attached to the cockerel’s spur by red thread.
Then the betting commenced, the crowd called out their preferred bird, shouting its name or colour. The men in the middle took their bets and eventually the noise level settled and the tension began to rise.
Both cocks were then brought to the middle of the ring. At a point agreed by both handlers the birds were released and the battle began and continued until one bird was killed or severely injured. The crowd shouting out and calling at every strike made.
The victor was paraded around the ring, the loser if not demised was finished off by the ringside cleaver. The men exchanged their cash, the winners shouting and joking, the losers shuffling away grumbling under their breath!
For those that are interested here's a video and some pictures, apologies but some of you may find the footage disturbing.
Looking like locals in our longees, now we can enter the temple to watch the fighting
The ring is busy, noisy and stiflingly hot under the tin roof
Cocks are selected and paraded
Waiting cockerels are stored in wicker baskets around the ring and constantly crow adding to the clamour ringside
Once fighting pairs have been established a spur is added to one leg of each bird
The birds are squared up and the betting commences
The ringleaders take the bets, call for your bird - "brown" or "white"!
Video footage of one of the fights
If it won't play you can view it on you tube at http://youtu.be/IIna41I-dVA