Gambling House spectators are always attracted to fights between-and, it seems, the stranger  the animal the better.  The Siamese, for instance, gamble on battles between male fighting fish (gorgeously colored relatives of the Paradies fish), which have been specially bred for pugnacity and endurance and will battle for periods of several hours.  They also gamble on aggressive crickets contained in glass jars and goaded into fighting by the skillful application of small wooden lances.  And Arabs bet on matched scorpions that will fight to the death on a battlefield formed by a plate or saucer.

But the most popular kinds of fighting that involve animals also involve humans.  Spain is a great Card-Playing country, but between April and November the gambling expenditure of the country shifts markedly onto bullfighting and cockfighting.  (Recently Franco’s government accused the people of spending over a tenth of their total income on gambling- illegally-at the bull rings and cockpits.)  Bullgifhting is nowadays almost exclusively confined to Spain and Mexico; but it is first recorded as a popular pastime in the frescoes of Knossos painted about 1500 b.c.  Some of these frescoes show girls as well as men battling with bulls; in others, depicting crowd scenes, you can Spot Money changing hands-though this may be money for entrance to the amphitheatre rather than wagers.  Both the minoan Cretans of Knossos and the Thessalonians were ardent supporters of bullfighting; later, the Romans imported the sport and the upper crust gambled hugely on popular bulls and bullfighting.
Today, almost every town in Spain has its plaza de toros.  The corrida, which is usually a series of six bullfights (the number may vary at times of special festivals), begins with a procession around the arena, after which the first bull is freed and engaged by the picadors, who are mounted on blindfolded horse racing .  The picadors take the brunt of the bull’s first charge and rouse its fighting fury by gouging it in the neck with short pikes.  They are followed by the ban-derilleros, who enrage the bull even more by sticking beribboned darts into its neck.  The payoff comes when the matador, the star of the afternoon, battles the bull with flowing cape and finally kills it with it with a single sword thrust.  Unless, of course, the bull kills him first.


Betting goes on at bullfights without much attempt at concealment.  Program attendants and soft-drink vendors often act as bookmakers’ agents, calling the odds and taking bets.  Bets are usually placed on which of the afternoon’s six matadors will be judged (by appointed referees or, occasionally, by a visiting dignitary) to have dispatched the bull with the greatest subtlety of technique.

Cockfighting appears to have been established in ancient Greece by the soldier Themistocles, who, leading his men into battle against Xerxes of Persia in 480 b.c., saw a couple of cocks fighting and made a stirring battle speech about them: “These animals fights neither for the gods of their country nor for the monuments of their ancestors, nor for glory, nor for freedom, nor for their children, but for the sake of victory, and in order that one may yield to the other.”  After winning the battle, he instituted an annual cockfighting festival as a thanksgiving for the cocks’ inspiration.

Subsequently, both cocks and quails, brass-spurred and force-fed on garlic to rouse their wrath, were pitted against each other in a sport that spread all over Europe.  Greece and Spain seem to be the only countries that have kept in use the original cock battlefield – a table with raised edges to prevent the contestants from falling off.  Elsewhere the birds fight in a fenced arena, or (more usually) in shallow pits.
Russia, Germany, Britain, and Italy have scarcely any cockfighting left (a little is still to be found in the north of England).  But over practically the whole of the united States, Mexico, Latin America, the West Indies, the Philippines, France, Belgium, India, Spain and Greece tournaments go on endlessly.  The sport is illegal in most of these places, though three of the United States (Florida, Kansas, and New Mexico) have given it license.  Approval of the sport, of course, doesn’t necessarily imply official approval of gambling on it.  all the same, enthusiastic bettors are as irrepressible in cockfighting as in other spectator sports.  Time reports that during a four-day tournament at the Orlando Game Club, Florida, the betting totaled $ 750,000, with gamblers coming from as far a field as Rhode Island, Texas, and Michigan.

Much of this betting was done privately, but there is no scarcity of book-makers at most cockpits.  Bettors standing around the pit shout the odds they want to lay and the bookmakers shout back if they are taking the bet.  If the authorities are putting on the pressure, bets are laid in bars, cafés, etc.

Cockfighting is another often gory contest involving animals.  Below right, a diagram shows the layout of a Cuban cockpit.  The cocks are weighed and spurred before their fight to the death.

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