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Images of the cockfight in Aceh

Bali is famous for its cockfighting, but Acehnese men love their fighting birds too

By: Scott Naysmith


A fighting cock is fawned over by owner and associates. While one of

many, this bird is prized among the rest and sleeps in the same room as

the man on the left.

By: Scott Naysmith

Fighting between cocks occurs instinctively. Less natural is the exploitation and institutionalisation of this innate animosity. Cockfighting, which provides a form of livelihood and entertainment to both breeders and onlookers, remains popular in many parts of the world with a history of domesticated fowl, and it is almost exclusively men who appropriate the antagonism between cocks for gain and enjoyment.

Formalized cockfighting is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia over 2500 years ago. But enterprising individuals, separated by history and a vast geography, have long subjected cocks to such contests. Cockfighting has been described as integral to the Dominican identity. In Ireland, and many other European countries, fighting fowl trade hands for hundreds of Euros. Though stigmatised and banned during Suharto’s reign as un-modern and un-Islamic, cockfighting has a wide following in Indonesia, predating Islamic expansion from the Arabian Peninsula to the archipelago.

Clifford Geertz, an American anthropologist, wrote the text on culture and cockfighting in Indonesia from his experience of living in a Balinese village in the late 1950s. For Geertz, the cockfight was a colourful manifestation of culture – ‘a

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