Cockfighting in Madagascar Considered as National Pastime

Cockfighting draws huge crowds and large sums of gambling money in Madagascar, an island nation off the southeast coast of Africa.

While cockfighting is rare in Africa, it is almost considered as a national pastime in Madagascar. It is an ancestral tradition that dates back 700 years and was brought to the country by Asian migrants.

Breeders travelled from around Madagascar to show off their finest cocks at a high-profile event, where the rush to bet reaches fever pitch.

The 400-seat Ambohimangakely Arena in the capital Antananarivo is engulfed by a deafening roar on match days.

Locals said more than 12 million ariary ($3,870 or 3,670 euros) change hands every fight. That’s a small fortune already in a nation where the average monthly salary is just 45 euros.

“Every team bets something on their cocks before the fight, then the spectators bet too. They are enormous amounts, but here it’s a passion,” said one of the breeders taking part in the competition. “People love it, it’s like going to a casino.”

With no deadly weapon attached to cocks, fights are long. Fights only end if two hours pass without a clear victor, if one of the cocks loses both eyes, if one refuses to fight or one of them dies.

During each break, the cock breeders take their bloodied beasts to a corner of the ring to delicately swab their injuries with small moist sponges.

Winnings are usually shared among several breeders and barely cover the costs of vaccines, food and the time needed for preparation.

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