The assumption that gamefowl (a distinct strain of Gallus domesticus, otherwise known as the domestic chicken) were developed from four species of wild Jungle-fowl found in India and southeast Asia is based on their strikingly similar appearance and behavior. In their native setting, male Jungle-fowl are strongly territorial and fight, often to the death, to claim breeding rights. It has been theorized that this natural selection process fascinated early man who then proceeded to domesticate the Jungle-fowl and selectively breed for the qualities that define the modern Gamecock. Not surprisingly, cockfighting is still popular in India and southeast Asia.
Cocking in the Philippines - early 1900's
Source: US Library of Congress

Cockfighting spread from Asia after the Persian armies conquered India in the 4th century B.C. The Persians adopted the sport and are thought to be at least partly responsible for its introduction to the Mediterranean basin through military and commercial pursuits. The sea-faring Phoenicians are also thought to be responsible for the widespread distribution of gamefowl from the orient to Africa, the Middle East, and along the European coast.

Cockfighting in Greece was a popular pursuit not only for entertainment, but as a model for courage in the face of extreme adversity. One of the more famous stories of cockfighting involves Themistocles, the mighty Athenian General. When preparing for battle against the Persians, his troops witnessed two cocks fighting beside the road. Themistocles took this occasion to explain to his soldiers:

"Behold, these do not fight for their household gods, for their monuments
of their ancestors, for glory, for liberty, or the safety of their children,
but only because the one will not give way to the other."

A great battle between the armies ensued, and the Persians were defeated. The influence of this particular cockfight was perpetuated by the subsequent passage of a law requiring yearly cockfights in Athens, the construction of an amphitheater for cockfighting, and the required attendance of young men at cockfights to learn the lesson of courage and fortitude even to death. A similar story describes the Roman emperor Severus prior to the invasion of Britain ordering his sons to attend daily exhibitions of cockfighting to counter the effects of their self-indulgent lifestyles. In addition to a physical and moral conditioning program, the cockfight was intended "not only to make them emulous of glory through the performance of great achievements, but also be firm and unshaken in the midst of dangers, nay in death itself."

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