In America, The Rock is a heavyweight wrestler-turned-actor. Sukkur’s The Rock is also a lean, mean fighting machine, but he’s a rooster.
Every Friday, thousands of people gather at the outskirts of Sukkur to watch a ‘grand cockfight’.
Last week, at least 100 spruced roosters took part in the battle and more than 2,000 men cheered them on. It started at 9 am and continued till 1:30 pm.
As in a usual fight, the crowd gathers in a roughly hewn circle while the owners of the fighting roosters stand closer to their pets, urging them on.
Last Friday’s star act was the fight between Sher Dil and The Rock.
The spectators picked their favourites and joined in the cheering.
“Qurban jaaoon kia action hai, Sher Dil! [I’d die for you, what a fight]” yelled a man. “Tear him into pieces!” shouts another and as the fight gains intensity.
Three minutes later, the roosters look tired and the owners call them back. They cradle the fighters in their arms, sprinkle water over them and soon, it is time for another round.
“It’s a matter of pride!” urges a spectator just before Sher Dil receives a serious blow. Blood starts trickling down the rooster’s beak and The Rock’s supporters start to dance.
“It’s not over yet!” cries Sher Dil’s angry owner Baboo Brohi. Another sprinkle from a water bottle and the injured rooster is pushed into the field again.
But the wound was near his eye and Sher Dil gave up the fight in the middle of the third round.
While stitching up Sher Dil, Brohi told The Express Tribune that there are 50 species of fighting cocks and most popular among them are Jagiri, Mianwali, Amrohi, Rampori and Jhal Magsi. He said they have “produced” a new crossbreed from Jagiri and Mianwali and the hybrid is supposed to be a tough fighter.
Treated like a king
The fighting roosters have a weapon called ‘khar’ at the back of their claws and they use this spur in the fights. A good fighting cock costs between Rs50,000 and Rs300,000, depending upon the rooster’s height and power. These birds are given a special diet of butter, milk and dry fruit. They are made to run at least five kilometres daily, which is essential to develop their stamina.
At night, the fighters undergo “physiotherapy”. The owners soak a towel in warm water mixed with henna and massage the bird with it. “This energises him and makes him look good,” Brohi said.
If the bird loses its khar during a fight, then another khar is joined with the broken one. They are available because when roosters die, or are killed, the owners usually cut the khars off and then sell a pair for Rs2,000 to Rs5,000.
The fighters are not allowed to sleep at least 10 days before the fight nor are they allowed any fun – “the roosters cannot go near a hen during these days”, Brohi said.
Gaining popularity abroad
Brohi said that this particular sport is also popular in Dubai and the Philippines. He used to go to Dubai to train roosters for Shaikhs, who give him a lot of money, free lodging and food.
In the Philippines, people attach small knives to the feet of the cock, which made the fight deadly. More often than not, one of the fighters dies.
Money or hobby
It is a popular sport in Pakistan too and it takes place in almost all cities and towns. Brohi maintained that it was not so much about the money than a love for the sport. “It is like a hobby,” he said.
But talking to other spectators, Brohi’s claims fell apart. The owner had lost Rs50,000 himself. Another man in the crowd said it was not just the owners but most of the spectators who lost or won money. “I won Rs8,000 while my friend lost Rs2,000,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2011.