COCK-FIGHTING. At first, cock-fighting was partly a religious and partly a political institution at Athens, and was continued for improving the seeds of valour in the minds of their youth, but was afterwards perverted, both there and in other parts of Greece, to a common pastime, without any political or religious intention. The Romans were prone to imitate the Greeks, but did not, as may be gathered from Columella, adopt this practice very early. It is not known when this sport was first introduced into England, but it was probably brought hither by the Romans. It has by some been called a royal diversion, and the cockpit at Whitehall was erected by Charlesll. for the more magnificent celebration of it. The birds are generally dieted for about a fortnight or three weeks by regular feeders, who receive for their trouble, in general, the admission money to the cockpit. Cocks of a middle size are found the best fighters: the match weights being from three pounds six ounces to four pounds eight ounces. The place appropriated to fighting is called the pit, and consists generally of a mound of earth covered with sod, and surrounded by seats in circular tiers. The battle is conducted by two setters, as they are called, who place the cocks beak to beak.
When once the cocks are pitted, neither of the setters-to can touch his cock, so long as they continue to fight, unless their weapons are entangled. But if they have left off fighting, while the umpire or lawteller can count forty, each setter-to instantly handles his cock, bringing them beak to beak in the middle of the pit, and the cock who made the last fight, with either heel or beak, is said to have the first law in his favour. When brought beak to beak, and set on their legs, if the cock who did not fight while the forty was telling, still continues to decline fighting, the umpire proceeds to count ten, which being done, they are again brought beak to beak; if the same cock continue still unwilling or unable to fight, the ceremony of telling ten, and bringing beak to beak, at the conclusion of every ten, takes place, till it has been repeated ten different times, when the cock so refusing to fight has lost his battle. But should he fight during the enforcement of any part of the law, what has been told is of no effect, and the first ten must be begun again, whenever a fight is renewed.
If a cock, having the law in bis favour, dies before the long law is told out, his adversary wins the battle, although he did not fight within the law; for there cannot be a greater criterion of victory thanhaving killed his opponent.
The following is Mr. Sketchley's description of a brood cock, in full health and vigour:—" A ruddy complexion, feathers close and short, not cold or dry ; flesh firm and compact, full breasted, yet taper and thin behind; full in the girth, well coupled, lofty, and spiring, with a good thigh; the beam of his leg very strong, a quick large eye, strong beak, crooked, and big at setting on." Such a one, not more than two years old, to be put to early pullets, or a blooming stag with two year old hens; and when a cock, with pullets of his own getting. Uniformity of colour is generally sought, and the hens selected of similar plumage to that of the cock; the same of shape, which is of greater object in the hen than size; only she should be lofty crested, short, and close feathered, with clean, sinewy,blood-like legs. Shropshire and Cheshire have long been famous for their breed of game cocks; and the Shropshire reds are in particular high estimation. There was formerly in Staffordshire a famous breed of cocks, of a perfect jet black, gipsy-faced', black legs, and rather elegant than muscular; lofty in fighting, close in feather, and well shaped.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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