Earlier it was a source of making money, whereas now people are fined for that. However, the tradition has survived regardless
Cockfighting is regarded as a tradition in Azerbaijan. In ancient times they used to be organized for Novruz, a holiday of the spring equinox. A decade ago, there were specially designated platforms for cockfighting in the so-called ‘Baku settlements‘ on the outskirts of the city where they were conducted openly and people used to place bets.
The Azerbaijani animal rights advocates have always considered cockfighting to be a cruel and inhumane activity; it was with their intervention that these fights were banned about seven years ago. Now those who are involved in this activity are subject to a fine.
However, those who love this peculiar ‘sport’ hasn’t given up and keep organizing fights in secret without any bets, in some secluded places. The fights are organized not just on holidays, but also on ordinary days with prior consent from the cock owners. These shows are rather popular, especially on holidays. However, fans avoid being caught on camera for fear of possible legal problems.
These photos have been taken in the village of Balajary which is just half an hour’s drive from Baku’s center.
Rauf has been fond of cockfighting for over 20 years. He says that the interest in cockfighting has dropped noticeably in recent years. The reason is that this custom has been banned and it is gradually being forgotten.
This gamecock is called Jekri. The owner says he named him after his first pet. Jekri is 18 months old and weights about 4.5kg. Rauf says jokingly that he sometimes doesn’t eat and drink himself, instead feeding his rooster so that he doesn’t embarrass him in a fight.
The platform for cockfighting is called a meydan – a square. The meydan should be covered with sand or soil so as to prevent the gamecocks from damaging their claws, which are their major weapon.
Before the fight starts, the gamecocks are paired according to weight, age and height. They should match each other in all respects, otherwise the event won’t be held. This process is controlled by a referee who is appointed by fans.
Before the fight the gamecocks’ legs and bodies are massaged. A fight can last from 20 minutes to two hours. In case of a long fight a break is taken, during which they have their legs and heads washed.
The losing gamecock is the one that either falls unconscious on the ground or runs away from the pit. Consequently, the other cock is declared the winner. If none of the gamecocks is defeated within 2 hours, then the game is called a draw.
Gamecocks which have been injured during a fight are treated with special oils and medicines. If a cock has been defeated, his owner will not bring him to the meydan for quite a long time. As for the winning cocks, they show up for every battle.
Today’s fight ended with Jekri’s victory.