Cockfighting in the Ferghana Valley

by Nathan Hamm on 12/28/2005 · 2 comments has a story on the popularity of cock fighting in the Ferghana Valley, which the author, Ivan Vasiliev, says is at its height of popularity. Vasiliev says the fights are held in a remote location–technically in Kyrgyzstan–to keep out undesirables. He says the fights run from 11 a.m. to early the next morning and that the stakes are high.

Cock-fights are a true attraction, at least at first when the fighters are still fresh. They energetically flap their wings and attack. Whoever runs away from the opponent is the loser. A short fight is certainly a sight worth seeing, and a short fight lasts but 10-15 minutes.

Some fights, however, last up to 1.5 hours. There were two such fights that day. Game-cocks were like professional boxers – hanging on the other, exhausted almost to the point of prostration. Pauses like that may take several minutes, with the audience grumbling and demanding that the judge called it a draw.

Owners usually refuse to call it a draw because they have a lot running on the fight. As a rule, owner and his friends raise 20,000 to 30,000 sums ($20-30) and bet it all. The same is expected of the other owner, and the winner takes it all.

Spectators bet too – both before and during the fight. This is how it is done. Someone shouts, “2,000 on the black one”, and someone else replies, “All right, Rustam-aka. 2,000 on the red one.” Their eyes meet to confirm the deal and that is that. The loser pays when the fight is over.

Vasiliev reports that he was told of fights in Margilan, Kokand, and Tashkent with birds imported from across Asia, including $7,000 Chinese black gamecocks. In the high-stakes betting, some even put down their cars as bets.

Interesting stuff. When I was in Uzbekistan, one of my friends told me that dog fighting was very popular in Chirchik and that videos of dog fights from Afghanistan were a hot commodity. Does anyone know if dog fighting is still as popular as cock fighting?

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Gene Daniels December 29, 2005 at 7:15 pm

Hey Nathan,

My friends here tell me that there is dog fighting in Osh every weekend, some of it to the death. I personally don’t know as I have never felt the desire to take a peek.

Matt W January 11, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Sorry for the late comment– I just saw this. There is regular cockfighting in several places in Uzbekistan Fergana Valley as well. I’ve been to it and the betting process is pretty intricate and interesting. The bets were from $.50 to $5. Also interesting, the handlers take an active part in the process, they stand at a distance, shadowing their respective birds and spitting water on them if they feel they are not enraged enough. Periodically, a referee calls a break if the roosters won’t fight, and each handler holds the bird up to his face, hisses and spits water at it before putting it back down. At some point one bird will just flee and not allow itself to be put back into the ring, and its opponent is then announced the winner.

Dog fights go on, but mostly on holidays and special occasions (also in Uzbekistan, not only in Kyrgyzstan). Many people raise dogs in the Uz part of the Valley, docking their ears and tails. They take it pretty seriously.

I heard of ram fights on a few choice holidays in Namangan, but couldn’t confirm.

As far as I have heard, the only kind of sport fighting that an Uzbek resident of the Valley has to go to lawless Kyrgyzstan and see is ultimate fighting. Rumor has it that this goes on and is QUITE elite and pricey. I kind of visualize something from Unleashed, but it’s probably less exciting.

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