Thai Cock Fighting Festival

Together with Muay Thai, Cock Fighting has been a sport in Thailand for hundreds of years. It all started with King Narasuan in the 16th Century who bred birds for cock fighting. It is a bloody sport where the birds often fight to the death. Deadly metal spikes were attached to the legs and razors fixed to the wings. If the loser didn’t die outright then it would end up in the cooking pot. The meat of fighting cocks are apparently high in protein and very tasty. Cock fighting takes place all over the country and it goes hand-in-hand with gambling. It mainly takes place in rural areas and is a popular sport with Thai farmers. However, in recent years, there has been a campaign to clean up the sport and to bring it into the modern age.

A few days ago I attended the “Festival for the Preservation of Thai Cock Fighting”. This took place at Bangkok Cockpit on the Eastern outskirts of Bangkok. It is in Bang Saotong District of Samut Prakan along Luang Phaeng Road. The cock fighting stadium is largely the brainchild of Dhanin Chearavanont (in the white shirt in this picture), the CEO of CP Group which produces animal feed and livestock such as chickens and pigs. This is a billion baht industry. Dhanin Chearavanont is mainly responsible for cleaning up cock fighting and preserving the pure bred Thai fighting stock for future generations. Together with the “Thai Native Chicken Conservation and Development Association” he has drafted a new set of rules. These include the rules that the spurs of the fighting cock have to be covered (much like boxing gloves) and rounds are shorter at ten minutes with a maximum of five rounds. If the cock runs out of the ring twice or sustains a serious injury then the fight is brought to an end.

As you can see from this picture (and my video here), it is still a bloody sport. Although you can clearly see that the spurs on their ankles have been covered, they were still inflicting heavy damage to their opponent. After watching a match I think there is a lot of similarity with Muay Thai. They are both sports which can kill. Some people may argue that fighting cocks had no choice, but young boys are often recruited to be fighters by their parents who look forward to financial winnings. Did these kids really have a choice? Personally I am saddened by both forms of sport and would like to see them banned. Having said that, at is purest level, Muay Thai is beautiful – it is an art form. However, together with cockfighting, it is belittled by rampant gambling that takes the sport to the extremes for the pleasure of the punters. If we took away all forms of betting from both kinds of stadium then will these sports still survive? I doubt it.

The guest of honour at the festival was Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Interior Minister. He is seen in my picture being presenting a painting by Dhanin Chearavanont. Incidentally, to the left of that same picture is the famous Ad Carabao who is very active in promoting cock fighting. I found it interesting in Chavarat’s speech when he said that part of the aim of this event was the intention to promote Thai cock fighting as a cultural attraction for foreign tourists. Apart from the fact that I was the only international media there and the only foreigner in the thousand strong crowd, he seems to not realize that cock fighting is banned in many countries as a barbaric sport. I know it is part of the Thai heritage but it is not exactly something that we can be proud of. I know that they have made great improvements in cleaning up the sport but there are still plenty of underground fighting pits that still allow the use of blades. I would personally hesitate before promoting this as a tourist attraction.

You can see more pictures that I took of this event over at the Samut Prakan Forums. I have also posted a video in our Paknam Video Blogs.

12 responses to “Thai Cock Fighting Festival

  1. The Charoen Pokphand Food Plc.(BAK:CPF) is a blue-chip stock listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand and Jakarta Stock Exchange(JAK:CPIN)
    I guess Mr Danin’s chicken farm must have bred a lot of these fighting cock as well and he’s lobbying for the presevation of this sport but with additional clause:’prevent animal cruelty’.A good proposal.
    Hei Richard,I agree with you without any form of betting,this sport might lose its glamour.
    Maybe the authorities should legalise it similar to that of horse-racing and dog racing.

  2. Hi Richard, I totally abhore any sport which pits animals against each other, would gladly see those that promote such sports imprisoned, but I don’t think you can compare cock fighting with muay thai. Muay thai can teach practitioners many postive things and change lives and attitudes for the better, just as many sports do.

    Banning animals killing each other for sport I agree with,who would want to witness such things? Its ridiculous.

  3. Ben I agree with you about Muay Thai as an art form. However, the money side of the sport in the form of betting has sent it directions it never should have gone. To me, watching the cock fight was the same as watching a Muay Thai match at Lumphini.

  4. I thought cock fighting in Thailand is illegal. But then I guess as the Minister of Interior was there then it cannot be. I guess gambling is also legal now judging by the presence of the chief of police. In your video on the forum I can see some people holding wads of cash.

  5. Stephen Cleary

    Going on from what John said. Yes, cock-fighting is semi-illegal in Thailand. Only official cock-fighting meetings like the one in the blog are legal. ie… the cock-fighting is done to ‘safety’ standards!

    As gambling on muay Thai and cock-fighting is very much part of Thai culture, it is legal at many major matches. Gambling at the above cock-fighting festival is probably legal, same as gambling on muay Thai at Lumphini, or the horse racing in Korat.

  6. Martin Widmer

    Not every tradition is good… but it’s sometimes painful to get rid of them. Cock fighting is a shame for Thailand in the international eyes, same is bull fighting in Spain. But they both still exist. It’s good that there is a discussion about it, as it will take decades to get rid of both. But as a stranger I find it interesting that in a mainly buddhist country, such a form of animal torturing is so popular. I would prefer not to be reborn as one of the roosters…

  7. A good article to read. I am very generous of you for writing this article. This sport IS a bloody sport however, it depends on the way they are fought. For example: there is knife/gaff battles which are meant to kill the birds and theres naked heel where the spur is covered up so no serious injuries occur. All around the world cockfights are everywhere. Its like a tradtition to everyone. Even here in the United States people really enjoy the sport. But in my opinon knife/gaff batttles are considered to be more hamrful to the birds then naked heels. In alot of cases there are usually kniff/gaff involve but there are many of us who consider the naked heel style. And to everyone who thinks that this sport is called “animal torture” that is not true. if this is animal torture then wouldnt killing cows for a cheeseburgers be torturing too because we are killling that animal then letting it roam free of where ever it wants to go. or as in deer hunting and fishing. these birds were born to fight even in the wild. it is a natural instinct to them. Yes these birds are beautiful and fighting will and will always be in them. But still most of us raise these birds to preserve their pureness and beauty. And yes many many countries including the USA banned this sport. But most of us still want to raise these birds not for fighting but to keep them pure and as a hobby of what we like.

  8. iam an indonesian people…here we farm a thai cockfight… but nothing an original cockfight of thai again in here . . .i will you to send me a free cockfight . . .couse iam very want it . . .this my adress “jalan. raden fatah gang mawar 2 no 01 rt.44 rw.04 pagar dewa kota bengkulu”…..please give me mister….nomber handphone.087894629482…..sorry if my english language is fals…..

  9. i dont agree with this animal rights activist. they must first stop the cruelty to humans like boxing, mixed martial arts, etc.

  10. Hi Richard,
    Where can I Free download a full movie about cockfighting is in addition to videos from youtube. I want to find movie/DVD
    about cockfighting,especially cockfighting festival video in Thailand and Burma. please tell me the site address.

  11. My one on youtube for this article was actually taken down by youtube.

  12. timotius lucky

    Awesome