Men Playing With Chickens
We first heard about the cock fights in Bali when we were in Amed. The guy at Warung Guns and Roses was talking about how much he loved going to cock fights. He had a cock himself and it was only brought out for special occasions. He explained to us that for the Balinese there is a lot of money in cockfighting. A good cock can command at least $250 whereas the best cocks will run you more than $300. To put this kind of money into perspective, local monthly income is often between $100-120/month and must support a family of three to four. Of course you can also fight with any old cock and you just might get lucky. If your cock wins several fights in one day you can make several hundred dollars.
Cockfighting is legal when it is related to ceremonial events and holidays. Gambling is not legal and police regularly show up at unofficial cockfights on the pretense of breaking them up. What usually happens is the cop gets a bribe while the cockfighting continues unhindered. In Amed there is a cockfight held every afternoon at 3pm.
I was interested to go see a fight and jumped when opportunity presented itself. Piel who works at the place some of my friends are staying, invited us to join him for the neighborhood fight. Briana figured she’d get too depressed watching so she sat this one out. The fight takes place right outside the village temple and when I got there I was surprised at the age representation. It seemed like every boy and man in the village between the ages of 7 and 70 was present, all holding their own prized cock. There were no women.
There is a bit of a show before the cocks fight. The organizers grab a participant’s cock and assess its weight, height, and feathers and compare it to another one. They eventually find two that appear to be a good match and tie a blade to one foot. I had never realized that they put a blade on them but I guess I didn’t give it much thought. A cock fight without the blades would probably last days, but with them it lasts around 60 seconds, for better or worse. When the fight starts they peck at each other with their beaks but then they start to fly up and scratch at each other with their feet. The fights don’t always result in death and the loser can definitely be wounded and live to fight another day. However, of the four fights we saw that day, three losers were immediately plucked and gutted. Piel’s poor cock was one of them. When I asked him about it later he said he was disappointed but it seemed like no big deal. It’s all part of the game. Last week it won and this week it lost.
We have only met one Balinese man who doesn’t like cockfighting. Even though he isn’t into it he raises chickens and has no problem selling the males to people who want to fight them. I can’t say that I blame him. With such a lucrative side business it would be difficult to completely divorce yourself from it.
So now I’ve seen a cockfight. I can’t say I would be super into going back for another one, nor do I condone the sport itself, but it was an interesting experience to have here in Bali.