cock-fighting


cock-fighting
   Particularly popular at *Shrovetide, but found at any time of year, either on an ad hoc basis or in specially constructed cock-pits which featured a raised circular platform in the centre and tiered benches for spectators. Fighting cocks were specially bred and trained, and successful ones fetched high prices, and the sport enjoyed widespread support from all levels of society. The earliest reference links cock-fighting with schoolchildren: each year upon the day called Carnival . . . boys from the schools bring fighting-cocks to their master, and the whole forenoon is given up to boyish sport; for they have a holiday in the schools that they may watch their cocks do battle (Fitz Stephen, c. 1183: 56) and there are numerous references in literary and historical sources to the 'cock-penny', which the master could exact from each of the boys in order to provide for the sport.
   Sporadic attempts to ban the game, from the 14th century onwards, seem to have been ignored, and the wide support is still evident in 1761 when 'an hostler in his apron often wins several guineas from a lord' (quoted Mal-colmson, 1973: 50). However, as the voices of protest gathered against *blood sports in the mid-18th century, cock-fighting came in for increasing levels of criticism and attempts at abolition. It was specifically banned in the 1835 Cruelty to Animals Act, but continued quite openly in a number of areas, and still takes place in secret.
   Wright and Lones, 1936: i. 24-6; Malcolmson, 1973; Edward G. Fairholme and Wellesley Pain, A Century of Work for Animals: The History of the R.S.P.C.A. 1824-1924 (1924), 75-82.

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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