Cock Fighting – A Traditional Pastime

When the Polynesians came from Eastern Asia in their va’a (outrigger canoes) to these islands some thousands of years ago they brought with them the plants & animals necessary for their survival. Amongst those on board were fighting cocks & hens, a fact confirmed by ornithologists whose studies of wild fowl in Bora Bora have indicated the birds can be traced back to the fighting cocks of India & Indonesia.

Cock fighting is amongst the oldest, if not the oldest, spectator sport in the world. It can be traced back at least 6000 years to Persia. Fighting cocks actually have ‘fighting in their blood’ – they are born with a congenital aggression to fight all other male members of their species. Faatitoraamoa, as the sport is known in Tahitian, is in fact an ancient Polynesian sport. Despite the efforts of many governments world-wide to ban the sport, its popularity continues to grow.

Cocks are raised for the first 2 years of their life with great care & attention to their every need. Having attained a size of around 2kgs to a maximum 2.5kgs they are now ready to fight. They will be prepared in much the same way as an athlete is conditioned.

The biggest day each year for cock fighting in Bora Bora, & well patronized by locals, takes place on Remembrance (or Armistice) Day – 11th November. It marks the start of a 3 day festival extending into the week-end that follows. It is conducted in a wonderful setting, typically Tahitian, with colourful housing & a generous growth of flowers of the ‘belle epoque’:

cock-fighting-bora

belle-epoque

Surrounded by magnificent tall pandanas trees, uru (breadfruit), coconut & the like, pandanas roofing is fabricated by local artisanat on site:

pandanos-roofing

It’s a village of sorts with structures to receive those wishing to enjoy a bbq, leisure areas for children, a billiard salon, areas to accommodate the cocks of breeders & trainers, & a wonderful large shaded area where the cocks are displayed prior to fighting.

bora-billiards

Today there were some 200 cocks on display from which around 30 combats would ensue – many cocks are brought to such events by their owners so as to familiarize the cocks with the setting, calm them in advance of their own big day. A number of cocks will arrive for such a day by plane from Tahiti as well as from surrounding islands.

rooster-display

Those that will fight are first weighed permitting trainers to find a competitor of the same weight & reach agreement to duel. Those concerned will reach agreement on ‘prizemoney’, normally each fight will be for between 60,000 & 80,000xpf – a long way from the heady sum of 550,000euros for which cocks recently fought in Bangkok & where cocks can sell for up to 80,000euros.

weighing-up-to-fight

The cocks are then prepared – there are a series of skilled practitioners with extensively equipped tool boxes present – before the cocks are presented to the match judge for inspection prior to fighting. The combat then gets underway until the match is stopped when a clear winner is readily apparent – normally by the owner of the defeated cock stepping into the ring.

rooster-preparations

Side bets in small amounts are taken between spectators right the way through the combat. The organisers also take a small amount out of the winner’s prizemoney to be set aside for a jackpot which will go to the cock who wins a fight in the shortest time over the whole festival. It is anticipated that this year’s jackpot could be as high as 300,000xpf. To give readers an idea the shortest fight today lasted 42 seconds with many, if not most contests extending around the 20 minute mark. It is anticipated the winner may well come from a fight ended within the first 10 seconds!

These birds are possessed of enormous courage & determination & one can readily understand the nuance in the bird’s useage as the emblem for many French national sporting teams.

cock-fights

fighting-cocks

bora-combat-coqs

rooster-fights

coq-combat-bora-bora

The day over as night sets in another game dear to Tahitians gets under way……………..but that’s best left to another report!

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