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which Cock-fighting was, by a particular law, ordained to be annually practised by the Athenians.
Dr. Pegge, in his excellent memoir on this subject in the Archæologia, has proved that though the ancient Greeks piqued themselves on their politeness, calling all other nations barbarous, yet they were the authors of this cruel and inhuman mode of diversion. The inhabitants of Delos were great lovers of this sport; and Tanagra, a city of Baotia, the Isle of Rhodes, Chalcis in Eubæa, and the country of Media, were famous for their generous and magnanimous race of chickens. It appears that the Greeks had some method of preparing the birds for battle.
Cock-fighting was an institution partly religious and partly political at Athens, and was continued there for the purpose of improving the seeds of valour in the minds of the Athenian youth. But it was afterwards abused and perverted, both there and in other parts of Greece, to a common pastime and amusement, without any moral, political, or religious intention, and as it is now followed and practised amongst us. It appears that the Romans, who borrowed this with many other things from Greece, used quails as well as cocks for fighting. Mr. Douce, Illustrations of Shakspeare, ii. 87, informs us : “ Quail combats were well known among the ancients, and especially at Athens. Julius Pollux relates that a circle was made, in which the birds were placed, and he whose quail was driven out of the circle lost the stake, which was sometimes money,
The modern manner of preparing is thus described in the Musæ Anglicanæ, 1689, ii. 86:
“ Nec per agros sivit dulcesve errare per hortos;
Quinetiam cristas ipsis, caudasque fluentes,
and occasionally the quails themselves. Another practice was to produce one of these birds, which being first smitten or filliped with the middle finger, a feather was then plucked from its head ; if the quail bore this operation without flinching, his master gained the stake, but lost it if he ran away. The Chinese have been always extremely fond of quail-fighting, as appears from most of the accounts of that people, and particularly in Mr. Bell's excellent relation of his travels in China, where the reader will find much curious matter on the subject. See i. 424, ed. 8vo. We are told by Mr. Marsden that the Sumatrans likewise use these birds in the manner of gamecocks.”
The first cause of contention between the two brothers Bassianus and Geta, sons of the Emperor Septimus Severus, happened, according to Herodian, in their youth, about fighting their quails and cocks.!
Cocks and quails, fitted for the purpose of engaging one another to the last gasp, for diversion, are frequently compared in the Roman writers,2 and with much propriety, to gladiators. The Fathers of the Church inveigh with great warmth against the spectacles of the arena, the wanton shedding of human blood in sport : one would have thought that with that of the gladiators, cock-fighting would also have been discarded under the mild and humane genius of Christianity. But, as the Doctor observes, it was reserved for this enlightened era to practise it with new and aggravated circumstances of cruelty.
The Shrove-Tuesday massacre of this useful and spirited creature is now indeed in a declining way; but those monstrous barbarities, the battle royal and Welsh main, still continue among us in full force-a striking disgrace to the manly character of Britons.
It is probable that cock-fighting was first introduced into this island by the Romans; the bird itself was here before Cæsar's arrival. William Fitzstephen, who wrote the Life of
1 " Interque se fratres dissidebant, puerili primum certamine, edendis Coturnicum pugnis, gallinaceorumque conflictibus, ac puerorum colluctationibus exorta discordia.” Herodian, jii. sect. 33.
2 Hence Pliny's expression, “gallorum, seu gladiatorum ;" and that of Columella, “rixosarum avium lanistæ :" lanista being the proper term for the master of the gladiators.
Archbishop Becket in the reign of Henry II., is the first of our writers that mentions cock-fighting, describing it as the sport of schoolboys on Shrove Tuesday."
Misson, in his Travels in England, translated by Ozell, p. 39, says: “Cockfighting is one of the great English diversions. They build amphitheaters for this purpose, and persons of quality sometimes appear at them. Great wagers are laid ; but I'm told that a man may be damnably bubbled if he is not very sharp.” At p. 304 he tells us : “Cock-fighting is a royal pleasure in England. Their combates between bulls and dogs, bears and dogs, and sometimes bulls and bears, are not battels to death, as those of cocks.” [The following notice of the sport occurs in Poor Robin's Almanack for the year 1730 : “Great consultations at the cockpit about battles, duels, victories, and what not. The battles proclaim'd first, and the victory afterwards, with a horn trumpet. But this hurry is not at the Cockpit at Whitehall, but the cockpit at the alehouse ; not about the congress at Soissons, but in Moorfields ; not about the fighting of armies, but cocks; where he is a great man, and scarce to be spoke to, who fed and trimm'd the cock that won, while the other party contents himself with believing that his cock had beat, had it not been for this chance blow, or that accident; and this creates another cockfight. The loser is vex'd, and this sets the men a fighting; they go to law, and set the lawyers a fighting or scolding, till they have got the clients money.”]
In the Statutes of St. Paul's School, A. D. 1518, the following clause occurs : “I will they use no cock-fightinge nor ridinge about of victorye, nor disputing at Saint Bartilemewe, which is but foolish babling and losse of time.” (Knight's Life of Dean Colet, p. 362.) In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland, 1792, iii. 378, the minister of Applecross, co. Ross, speaking of the schoolmaster's perquisites, says: “He has the cockfight dues, which are equal to one quarter's payment for each scholar.” Perhaps the subsequent extract from a MS. Life of Alder
Fitzstephen's words are: “Præterea quotannis, die qua dicitur Carnilevaria—singuli pueri suos apportant magistro suo gallos gallinaceos pugpaces, et totum illud antemeridianum datur ludo puerorum vacantium spectare in scholis suorum pugnas gallorurn." See Dr. Pegge's edit. 1772, man Barnes, p. 4, which I have frequently cited in my History of Newcastle, about the date of James the Second's time, leads to the etymon of the word main, which signifies a battle offhand. «His chief recreation was cock-fighting, and which long after, he was not able to say whether it did not at least border upon what was criminal, he is said to have been the Champion of the Cock-pit. One cock particularly he had, called “Spang Counter,' which came off victor in a great many battles à la main; but the sparks of Streatlem Castle killed it out of mere envy: so there was an end of Spang Counter and of his master's sport of cocking ever after.”
The diversion of Cock-fighting was followed, though disapproved and prohibited in the 39th year of the reign of Edward III. ; also in the reign of Henry VIII., and a. D. 1569. It has been by some called a royal diversion, and, as every one knows, the Cockpit at Whitehall was erected by a crowned head,for the more magnificent celebration of the sport. It was prohibited, however, by one of the acts of Oliver Cromwell, March the 31st, 1654.
Dr. Pegge describes the Welsh main, in order to expose the cruelty of it, and supposes it peculiar to this kingdom, known neither in China, nor in Persia, nor in Malacca, nor among the savage tribes of America. “Suppose," says he, “sixteen pair of cocks; of these the sixteen conquerors are pitted the second time—the eight conquerors of these are pitted a third time—the four of these a fourth time—and, lastly, the two conquerors of these are pitted a fifth time: so that, incredible barbarity! thirty-one of these creatures are sure to be thus inhumanly destroyed for the sport and pleasure, amid noise and nonsense, blended with the blasphemies and profaneness of those who will yet assume to themselves the name of Christians.”
Without running into all the extravagance and superstition of Pythagoreans and Brahmins, yet certainly we have no right, no power or authority, to abuse and torment any of God's creatures, or needlessly to sport with their lives ; but, on the contrary, ought to use them with all possible tenderness and
1 The Cockpit, it seems, was the school, and the master was the comptroller and director of the sport.
? King Henry VIII. See Maitland, p. 1343. It appears that James I. was remarkably fond of cock-fighting.
moderation. In a word, cock-fighting was an heathenish mode of diversion in its beginning, and at this day ought certainly to be confined to barbarous pations. Yet, it may and must be added, to aggravate the matter, and enhance our shame, our butchers in this cruel business have contrived a method, unknown to the ancients, of arming the heels of the bird with steel ;l a device which has been considered a most noble improvement in the art, and indeed an invention highly worthy of men that deligbt in blood.”
It still continues to be a favorite sport of the colliers in the north of England. The clamorous wants of their families solicit them to go to work in vain, when a match is heard of.
In performing some years ago the service appropriated to the Visitation of the Sick with one of these men, who died a few days afterwards, to my great astonishment I was interrupted by the crowing of a game cock, hung in a bag over his head. To this exultation an immediate answer was given by another cock concealed in a closet, to which the first replied, and instantly the last rejoined. I never remember to have met with an incident so truly of the tragi-comical cast as this, and could not proceed in the execution of that very solemn office till one of the disputants was removed. It had been industriously hung beside him, it should seem, for the sake of company. He had thus an opportunity of casting at an object he had dearly loved in the days of his health and strength, what Gray has well called “a long, lingering look bebind."
At Stamford, in Lincolnshire, an annual sport is celebrated, called Bull-running, of which the following account is taken from Butcher's Survey of the Town, 1717, pp. 76, 77. “It is
1 Pliny mentions the spur, and calls it telum, but the gafle is a mere modern invention, as likewise is the great, and I suppose necessary, exactness in matching them. The Asiatics, however, use spurs that act on each side like a lancet, and which almost immediately decide the battle. Hence they are never permitted by the modern cock-fighters.