VICIOUS TERRITORIAL CHICKENS FIGHTING TO THE DEATH
Note how the roosters savagely rip into each other with their sharp
spurs, as the
non-debeaked hens peck each other with their cruel weapon until the blood flows.
Example of an artificial, controlled setting.
Without human intervention, by way of culling male chicks, proper housing
(ideally packed in large
sheds or crammed in small wire cages) and debeaking, scenes like these would be commonplace.
'Origin of Chickens
All varieties of domestic chickens,
including the game fowl, are
scientifically regarded as descendants of the Red Jungle Fowl
(Fumihito, et al). The Red Jungle Fowl is a native of Southeast
Asia. These birds have existed for tens of thousands of years in
their natural habitat. Their contemporary wild relatives carry on
the autonomous social organization and behavior of their ancestors.
Roosters Don't Spend Their Time Fighting
Field studies of wild, feral, and
domestic chickens show a
complex social life with virtually no fighting. "No serious fights
were observed," according to a 13-month study of feral chickens
on Northwest Island off the coast of Queensland, Australia
(McBride, et al., 135). This study depicts in detail the courtly
and protective behavior of the cock, or rooster, towards his hens
Describing a serious fight that broke out between roosters
penned up together, McBride, et al. state: "A fight of this type
was never seen in the wild. Its fatal end was due possibly to
the restriction of movements in the pen, as well as to the
inability of a defeated bird to escape by flying into a tree" (158).
'The wild Red Jungle Fowl, which
is a species of pheasant
native to southeast Asian forests and the progenitor of the
domestic chicken, like other Phasianids, engages in "ritual
showdowns" which have the potential to cause injury.
Cock-fighters have taken that simple fact to justify
cock-fighting as a "natural" act: what the birds would do,
what they "want" to do.
But I rather like the comment by
William Beebe, who wrote,
"The mentality of the domestic game cock is as much a product
of artificial selection as is the physical character of a crest in the
Polish fowl and the physiological function of increased fertility."
(Pheasants: Their Lives and Homes, Doubleday, Doran and
In other words, domesticated strains
of Red Jungle Fowl have
been bred to enhance the "fighting" characteristic, to the degree
that it is heritable. Male birds who fail to fight simply are not
bred. Indeed, they are not allowed to live. Those who "fight"
normally, are also avoided. It is only those who are truly
abnormal in the manner in which they attack male competitors
that have subsequently been used for breeding.
And even that does not satisfy the
cock-fighters, so they
augment the natural spurs on the birds' tarsi with artificial
ones, prod the birds with close contact, and confine them
in absurdly small spaces lacking in vegetative cover or
complex visual stimuli in order to achieve the degree of
injury and death that attends cock-fighting. It is an entirely
contrived and artificial situation using birds whose behaviour
simply does not exist in nature, except to a shadowy,
nascent degree - brief encounters with much apparent
fury but little or, far more likely, no damage. Damaging
the opponent is not the purpose of these encounters; it is
the purpose of cock-fighting.