Saturday, March 27, 2010


“for when He crows they quiver and when He comes they flee”

-- Ishmael Reed, “The Black Cock"

The local roosters are time-warped by this unnatural environment. They crow at all hours. I don’t blame them, this place scrambles my cycles, too.

There may be cockfighting going on, even though it’s been illegal in Arizona since 1998. People need to make money one way or another. And in carnicerías and liquor stores all over town, I’ve seen cockfighting DVDs for sale.

Most Americans see cockfighting as sleazier than pornography, but it’s a natural phenomenon. Roosters are kamikaze sperm-delivery systems. They’d take on velociraptors, if they met any. Their philosophy is “Live fast, die young, leave a mutilated corpse.” We had chickens in West Covina when I was a kid, and I witnessed a string of roosters live and die bloodily without ever being in a staged fight.

I wonder, if bullfighting has developed an online culture, could cockfighting be alive and well and living in cyberspace?

After a few taps and clicks, I found that, yes, it certainly is.

Not only are their sites that promote the breeding of fighting cocks, and the fights themselves, across the globe, but there are videos of birds in action. I won’t embed any here, out of respect for some of my more sensitive readers. Those who are curious, search on YouTube, try keywords in Spanish and English.

A big surprise for the Anglo-American sensibility is that cockfighting overlaps into other parts of Latino culture.

It is the theme of a lot of songs.

Adela “La Gallera” Fernandez has made a career of them.

And Lucha Villa can’t seem to sing a song without somebody setting up a cockfight nearby.

Yes, that was from a movie. There is a Mexican “gallero” genre. It’s very much like the Western, except instead of the traditional shoot-out, there are cockfights, and also songs. Music makes everything seems more civilized.

A classic of the genre is La Muerte de un Gallero, (that’s “The Death of a Cockfighter” for the Spanish-impaired), starring legendary singer/actor Antonio Aguilar. Here we see a spaghetti-Western influence, and songs. (Note: No roosters are hurt in this clip -- and the human blood is fake).

Like bullfighting, swordfighting, kung fu, and car crashes, cockfights are cinematic. These beautiful creatures fighting to the death is pure drama, and closest any of us will come to seeing what it must have been like when real dinosaurs fought -- if there were any around people would pay to watch them fight.

This was the idea behind my short story “Rexitos” that was in the January 1999 Science Fiction Age.

Not many other works of art out of the English-speaking world have been inspired by cockfighting. One exception is the hard-to-find novel Cockfighter by the hardboiled genius Charles Willeford, that was made into one of the few unprofitable movies by Roger Corman.

And as the world grow smaller, roosters, and artists are warped by it, who knows what savage inspirations we’ll see . . .


  1. "Kamikaze sperm delivery systems" - a beautiful phrase.

    Don't forget bettas, aka Siamese fighting fish. You see them in pet stores, circling endlessly around their small bowls, sentenced to see the enemy and never engage.

  2. CF, don't forget that bettas were also specifically raised for betting purposes. Those big fins were selected for in captivity, mostly because they produced larger and larger displays when the fish saw an opponent. (Every once in a great while, you might actually see a female betta in a pet shop. The females haven't been subjected to endless human selection for color and bloodthirstiness, so they look very much the way both male and female wild bettas appear.)

    Now, Ernest, on the subject of changing attitudes toward cockfighting, Texas finally banned it officially after George W. Bush left the Governor's office, but its ending hasn't left people that thrown for a loop. It's much like how pit bulls have gone from being banned as an "aggressive breed" to becoming a valued family-friendly pet. (I've met a lot of pit bulls in Dallas, and every last one I've met has been a friendly yet protective sweetheart because that's how they're raised. I don't worry about being mauled by a pit bull: I look at a lot of overbred and inbred breeds such as chows or Dalmatians, and they scare the hell out of me.) Instead, what I'm seeing is a logical online return to the old tradition of Chinese cricket fighting, as evidenced with Gladiator Bugs. Bill Hicks said it first (and Denis Leary plagiarized it): we only want to save the cute animals, and the reason why nobody's complaining about arthropod fighting is because precious few can express sympathy for scorpions or roaches.

    For some reason, I keep thinking of George R.R. Martin's short story "Sandkings", with the idea of insectoids that naturally fight wars. I also figure that Willis O'Brien and Ray Harryhausen were onto something about how people would pay to watch dinosaurs fighting to the death. I leave you with a little bit on the Mantophasmatodea, a suborder of carnivorous insects thought extinct for 40 million years until living specimens were described in 2002, and I look forward to the classic Ernest Hogan synthesis.