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A gamecock or game fowl is a type of rooster with physical and behavioral traits suitable for cockfighting. The first use of the word gamecock, denoting use of the cock as to a “game”, a sport, pastime, or entertainment, being in 1646. after the term “cock of the game” used by George Wilson, in the earliest known book on the sport of cockfighting in The Commendation of Cocks and Cock Fighting in 1607. Game fowl are more closely related to their wild cousins "jungle fowl"; a shy wild chicken from forests in South Central and Southeastern Asia. Game fowl are physically more similar to jungle fowl than domestic chickens and are bred to retain these physical attributes as well as the jungle fowl's natural territorial instinct. This instinct among sexually mature males is the driving force behind their desire to dominate (and eliminate) other males that would compete for breeding rights in their territory. Hens also will often have an above average need for territorial dominance. In some bloodlines the hens must be kept separate, just as with the cocks. Domesticated chickens – in contrast – have been bred over many generations to cohabitate on farms or other smaller pieces of land. Because of this change in environment, the aggressive attributes found in wild chickens (and modern game fowl) are not desirable for farm life. The "gameness" or fighting spirit has been bred out of domestic chickens. Domestic chickens are primarily bred for egg and meat production.
The roosters will fight each other regardless of human contact; it is their natural instinct to fight. There are numerous chicken breeds that fit the gamecock type, but a gamecock is not in itself a breed. Today, cockfighting, like most blood sports, is illegal in most of the world, but exceptions exist. Ireland, England, the U.S., and Spain are well known for the quality of their gamefowl.
A gamecock may undergo physical conditioning in preparation for a fight. The conditioning process is sometimes referred to as a "keep" and is designed to, among other things, tame the cock so that he can be handled during a fight. The primary purpose of a keep is to ensure that the bird is physically and mentally fit for its upcoming match, similar to the conditioning a boxer or wrestler goes through. The keep usually includes a special high energy diet as well as physical exercise.
Prior to physical conditioning, a gamecock that is to be fought or shown is often groomed. The comb (the red skin on top of the head) and wattles (skin under the beak) is usually trimmed at around a year old. This process is called “dubbing”. The feathers are sometimes groomed as well. The sickle feathers of the tail may be trimmed or any long feathers that a cock might trip on during a fight. In some cultures (particularly among Cuban game fowl enthusiasts), the feather trimming is much more extensive. The feathers of the chest and the back are sometimes shorn completely off. The reason for this extensive trimming is to help prevent a bird from overheating during a longer match. The reasons for this vary among individual game fowl enthusiast. Some trim their birds according to a tradition and others do it because they believe that losing the “bulky” feathers improves mobility during a fight.
Because of the physical attributes of gamecocks, they are often raised not for fighting but as “show fowl”. The athletic musculature and usually long colorful plumage causes them to be well suited for chicken beauty pageants.
Cockfighting is a seasonal sport. From September to November, gamecocks go through their molting stage (lose old feathers and grow new ones). This is a sensitive time for the gamecock, so no fighting occurs.
Gamecocks are bred for traits that make them less suitable for barnyard use, and are kept today in the developed world primarily for exhibition purposes. There are several breeds of chicken, such as the Modern Game and Old English Game Bantam, which fit the gamecock type, but are not directly used in cockfighting. Although cockfighting is illegal in the U.S., in Puerto Rico it is very popular.
This term is popular as a nickname for many U.S. athletic teams. For example, the teams at the University of South Carolina, Jacksonville State University in Alabama, New Brockton High School (New Brockton, Alabama), Sumter High School (Sumter, South Carolina), and Screven County High School (Sylvania, Georgia) use the name.
A fighting cock is the emblem for the English football club Tottenham Hotspur F.C.. The male sport teams of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras are named "Gallitos" ("Little Roosters") after gamecocks. "Gamecock" is sometimes used as a nickname for people who are considered fierce fighters. During the American Revolution, General Thomas Sumter earned the nickname in his battle against the British forces in South Carolina.
The Tufts University Men's Track and Field team created an alter ego division 1 fictional school called Jumbo State, and have designed shirts representing the Jumbo State Gamecocks combining a cock and an elephant (the Tufts mascot is Jumbo the elephant).
- Cocky (mascot)
- Gamecock Media Group
- South Carolina Gamecocks
- The Daily Gamecock
- gamecock - Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary - first use of word - 1646