Raging . Roosters
FUENTE: VIETNAM NET BRIDGE
6 / MARZO / 2010
Betting on cock fights is a hugely popular pastime for many Vietnamese men who are fond of a flutter.
Just after Tet a small cluster of men gathers on a newly built road by West Lake. Passers-by slow down wondering if there might have been an accident. But the men are huddled around a pair of cockerels. Bets have been wagered and the men shout with eager joy as the two fighting roosters close in on each other. When one of the birds springs into the air and attacks the other’s head the men scream with relish.
When I ask how long the cockerels have been fighting somebody mutters “about three hours”. One of the roosters is bleeding and flustered. The owner jumps in to try and spur the wounded beast on. But it starts to run around and tries to escape the ring. Under the rules if a rooster leaves the ring twice and does not return, it forfeits the match. The owner fails to settle his rooster and the bout is declared to be over.
Cock fighting is a something of a traditional pastime in Vietnam. The official “cock fighting season” lasts from lunar December to lunar April of the lunar month. During Tet you will find it increasingly common. There are even festivals in some villages.
As it is such a popular form of entertainment, raising cockerels is a business investment. But it takes time. A cockerel will become so acquainted with its owner that only the owner will be able to hold him.
Tran Van Quyet is a 30-year old employee of a computer trading company. But his real passion is cock fighting.
“I began raising fighting cocks when I was 10 years old. I love the violence of the games, caring for the cockerels and the feeling when my one wins,” says Quyet, who owns 10 fighting cockerels.
After his cockerel emerges from the ring triumphant, Quyet rolls up his sleeves and puts a piece of cloth into a bowl of water mixed with alcohol and ground ginger. He then carefully massages the rooster. The august cockerel cranes his long neck to enjoy this special attention.
Quyet claims that to produce a good fighting rooster, he must carefully select a young chick and separate it from the hens. He will prepare a special diet for the cockerel and use massage oil that will help it develop thick, tough skin.
“A rooster will be able to fight by the time its 10 months old,” he says. There are three main species used for fighting which are referred to as “sacred cockerels” or “combat cockerels” in Vietnamese. Black cockerels with a red comb and a long neck are said to be full of stamina and will fight to the bitter end. White cocks with ivory-coloured feet and round yellow eyes are notoriously hot-tempered and perform “lightning strikes”.
Meanwhile, cockerels that are have black, yellow, brown, red and dark blue feathers are said to be flexible but cowardly if losing a fight. Before a fight the owners will compare each rooster’s size, weight and combat achievements. If one has longer spurs, the rival is allowed to wear artificial spurs to make it a fair fight. After the owners come to an agreement, the roosters will be brought into the ring and held until the signal is given to start the fight.
There are rounds lasting from 10 to 15 minutes. Like a cagey boxer, cockerels will often feint lunges to gauge their foes’s reactions before engaging. Cockfighting has always been related to gambling but in a more innocent bygone era, the defeated owner would fork out money but the owner would probably insist on treating him to a boozy lunch. Nowadays, many owners are rather sneaky.
Luu The Hai, a 56-year old from Hanoi’s Nghia Tan district, claims that some owners will tie a small sharp blade to the cockerel’s legs. Or even more cunningly, the owner will bet against his own cockerel and try to ensure that it loses.
“Owners feed their cock with a certain kind of food a few hours before the fight and massage it in such a way that it looks perfectly healthy but is unable to fight at full strength,” Hai says.