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A sport that thrills but kills

June 18, 2007

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MUZAFFARGARH, June 17: Cricket is often described here as a national passion but in some parts of Muzaffargarh, cockerel fight has over the years become much more than a favourite pastime, a local wrestle mania.

It is the sport at the local circuit that draws hundreds of spectators. April and May are the months when cockfight competitions are held and this season saw around two dozen of those in Baseera, Pattal, Basti Chajhra, Chowk Goudar, Mahmood Kot and Kot Addu. There were hundreds of people who witnessed the cockerels fighting, there was great enthusiasm.

Growing in popularity with every passing day, it is the sport people love to invest time and money in this neck of the wood. It has a set of rules, but all of them unwritten.

“Every cock is not a fighter, but those that belong to a special breed called Aseel are,” according to Faqeeh (his real name has been withheld on his request), who rears a fighting cock named Kalashan, the abridged form of Kalashnikov. He says he had crossbred his cock from a cockerel from Larkana three years ago.

Fighter cocks are fed on special diet.

“In the winter I give my cock eggs, milk, honey, butter and almond and in summer almond juice, milk, grains and pulses suit it.”

Faqeeh takes his Kalashan to jog every morning. Jogging, he says, is necessary for the fighter cocks because it keeps them warm. For training, he leaves his cock in field where it tries to catch worms and in the process it jumps, flies and runs; such a training creates a spirit of fighting.

The trainer employs another drill. He takes some worms in his hand and first shows them to Kalashan and then moves the hand up and down. “Dodging makes the cock angry and instils in it the spirit to fight”.

When a cockfight is decided, it is not advertised through any pamphlet or written material. Only word of mouth is enough. The thing that makes a fighting more attractive is the prize money for the winner cock. “If the prize money is big, I mean, in hundreds of thousands of rupees, the crowd is in thousands. If the prize money is in thousands, the crowd is in hundreds.

“It is the reward that determines the number of spectators. The more money, the bigger the crowd.”

Sometimes fighting cockerels are brought from Larkana, Mirpurkhas, Peshawar and Mardan, which means gate-crashing. Mostly the stake money is paid by the owners of the cocks, but the fans also bet on the cocks and win or lose the money. But betting by fans is kept off the record.

In an event, two or three pairs fight. In the ring a pair fights in three rounds and the last round is based on a knockout system. With every cock comes a coach who is also called its doctor. His job is to blow (air) in the nose of the cock before the fight and during the intervals.

When this correspondent asked Shabbir Nai, the doctor of Kalashan, the reason for blowing in his nose, he said, “It will make him warm and fearless.”

The doctor also taps the feathers of the cock and puts water in the eyes of the fighting cocks. Before the fight, a cock is made to wear a shoe of nails covering his ankles and feet. Cocks use these pointing nails in their fights to attack their rivals’ eyes or neck.

“Once the eye of the rival is injured, the fight is almost over,” says Faqeeh.

The first round of the fight lasts for three minutes. After this the fighting cocks go on a 15-minute break during which they get attention of doctors or coaches. The owners mostly don’t attend the fight because in Faqeeh’s words: “A fight is matter of life and death for the owners of the cocks. So they stay away from the scene.”

The second round starts after 15 minutes. During the fight, whenever a cock nails his rival, the crowd roars a thundering applause: ‘Shaboosh’, ‘Wah Bhai Wah’ and ‘Ji Rakh’.

The third round has no time limit and it ends when a rival cock runs away of the ring or is collapsed due to excessive bleeding. Sometimes an owner, seeing his cock losing, withdraws it, implying that he has surrendered.

Executive District Officer (Community) Malik Khair Muhammad Budh said the government would take action against this cruel sport.

The price of a fighter cock ranges between Rs10,000 and Rs200,000. But sometimes a defeat for a cock can be the end of his life because the stakeholders include ‘Murgh Karahi’ as part of the prize.