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Beastly Bloodsports
Bear Baiting, 1795 (from The Sporting Magazine, London)
I cheered at the banderillero's display
As they each stuck the bull in their own clever way
For I hadn't had so much fun since the day
My brother's dog Rover
Got run over!
Tom Lehrer, In Old Mexico.

Nobody thinks animal bloodsports are boring. They're sure to get the blood pumping, although whether that's from the excitement of watching the fight or outrage at seeing such cruelty depends on the observer. Animal Bloodsports come in two varieties: animal versus animal, and animal versus human.

Animal versus animal bloodsports involving two similar animals include cockfighting and dogfighting, most prominently. With dissimilar animals involved, bear-baiting and badger-baiting — having dogs attack a leashed bear or badger, respectively — may be observed. Animal versus animal bloodsports may also involve betting, and the attendant attempts to rig the game. Naturally, animals themselves can't be paid off to take a dive, so the methods used to change the animal's chances may be clinical, perhaps involving the services of a not-so-Kindly Vet.

Animal versus human bloodsports can be further divided into sports where the odds are overwhelmingly on the human's side (although not so much as to obviate the need for the human to be skilled), as with a bullfight, a roughly fair fight, or sports in which the odds are on the animal's side. At the extreme of the odds being on the human's side, it effectively ceases to be a sport (insofar as it ever was) and becomes an animal Snuff Film. At the extreme of the odds being on the animal's side, the human is simply Fed to the Beast. Generally, where the odds are not in the humans' favor (being either roughly even or in the animal's favor), see Gladiator Games.

Fox hunting is a hybrid, with human and animal vs. animal, with humans and dogs double-teaming foxes. Whereas most animal bloodsports seem to mark the dark side of the lower classes, fox hunts are the the province of the upper-crust. Rat baiting was a combination sport and dog-training method, as professional rat-catchers would release the rodents into pits and then set their terriers on them for practice, often taking bets on how many each dog would kill.

Regardless of the type, Animal Bloodsports are usually — but far from unanimously — regarded as repugnant. Dogfighters are regarded as scum. Cockfighters may get off a little easier, but are still unsavory. Animal bloodspots may also serve as a sign of the unpleasant aspects of bygone times, with Medieval Morons enjoying the cruel spectacle without modern qualms. Rat baiting took longer to be banned than most such "sports", as rats were legally classified as vermin and didn't evoke any public sympathy; eventually, concern for the dogs' welfare got it outlawed, too.

As for when humans are involved, bullfighters — perhaps because they put themselves at risk (although not as much as the bull), rather than just having the animals fight it out — may be a little better. Some Spaniards in Real Life are defensive about bullfighting, especially against foreign critics, as a distinctive part of their culture which foreigners don't get, although a majority of Spaniards dislike bullfighting.

Compare Mons, where there's an element of training and capturing/collecting the animals as well and Attack Animal for when animals are used as actual weapons, rather than a spectator sport.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • Meriem is forced to fight against animals when she is abducted and forced into Gladiator Games in an arena called the 'Bowl of Bones' in Cavewoman: Oasis.
  • Ruse: In #1 of the Marvel mini-series, Simon pursues a suspect into a rat-baiting contest, where terriers compete to see which can kill the greatest number of rats.

Fan Fic
  • This is one of the fates in store for many of the poached creatures during the Poaching Arc of The Tainted Grimoire.

Film
  • In Talk to Her, one of the characters is a bullfighter. Her profession is not questioned, and may even add to her sex appeal.
  • In The Littlest Hobo (the original 1958 film not the Canadian series based on it) the title dog gets caught up in the dogfighting circuit for a short period.
  • The 2011 Tamil film Aadukalam revolves around the practice of cockfighting in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Literature
  • In The Cross Time Engineer, one of Conrad Stargard's first controversial acts is to euthanize a bear that's being used for bear-baiting.
  • George R. R. Martin's Haviland Tuf short story "A Beast for Norn". The twelve Great Houses of the planet Lyronica use creatures native to their planet as combatants in gaming pits. Tuf disapproves of this cruelty to animals, so he sells each of the Houses an alien creature that annihilates the other Houses' creature in combat. He charges an ever-increasing outrageous fee for each creature, makes sure that each one has a serious side effect that will make it useless, and gives each House an extra creature that devastates its ecosystem. As a result, all of the Houses end up going bankrupt.
  • Hugh Lofting's novel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. While in the Capa Blanca Islands, Doctor Dolittle makes a wager with a powerful nobleman that the noble will end bullfighting in the islands if the Doctor can perform more tricks with a bull than any of the local matadors. He then talks to the bulls and convinces them to help him put on a show so that they won't have to die in the bullring any more.
  • Horse fights are a popular entertainment in the world of the Icelandic Sagas, and will always become the catalyzer of a quarrel or feud. A prominent example occurs in Njal's Saga.
  • One of the central conflicts of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents involves the terrier rings where the terriers compete to kill the greatest number of rats.
  • Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Trilogy is set in a society where dragon-fighting is popular (dragon vs. dragon, directed by their human Mindlink Mates).
  • Mentioned in Assassin of Gor: an arena where Gladiator Games are held is also used for animal-vs-animal fights. Sometimes it's even flooded and aquatic animals are pitted against one another.
  • In White Fang by Jack London, White Fang (a wolf/dog hybrid) is forced to become a pit dog, and it turns him into a deadly monster. He has to fight wolves, multiple dogs at a time, even a lynx once. The last fight he was in was against a bulldog, and it nearly killed him, until some men arrived and broke up the fight. One of them cared for White Fang, who eventually was tamed by his kind new master.
  • Duke Leto's father in Dune was killed in a bullfight. The prequels by Brian Herbert added that the bull that killed him was hopped up on stimulants rather than sedated like it should have been. A tool of assassination. The original didn't attribute any foul play.
  • In Dead Witch Walking, the first book of The Hollows series, Rachel Morgan is transformed into a mink and placed into bloodsport matches against other predators; some of whom are also transformed humans.
  • Many of Ernest Hemingway's works deal with bullfighting, including The Dangerous Summer, Death in the Afternoon and The Sun Also Rises.
  • The Great Train Robbery devotes a chapter to describing a Victorian "ratting" establishment, a place where patrons bet on how many rats the dogs can kill within a time limit. Bank manager Edgar Trent keeps several ratting dogs; train robber Edward Pierce fakes interest in the sport in order to strike up an acquaintance with Trent and surreptitiously learn of the bank's security measures.
  • Nathanael West's 1939 novel The Day of the Locust includes a detailed and graphic cockfighting scene which leads to a more figurative cockfight. Left out of the movie for obvious reasons.
  • Bodger from The Incredible Journey is an old dogfighting retiree. He thought it was great fun and the narration treats it as a proud and noble sport.
  • In Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, the Overlords state their objection to killing animals for entertainment. They put teeth into this pronouncement by causing every member of the audience to feel the bull's pain at what, for obvious reasons, is the last bullfighting event.

Live-Action TV
  • 1000 Ways to Die features a death involving a cockfight, where a man who bets on a rooster attaches razors to its claws to ensure its winning, but is slashed to death himself.
  • Animal Precinct and other animal rescue shows often have animal cruelty agents busting up dog-fighting rings. Fighting dogs often have to be euthanized because they are too dangerous to be rehabilitated and put up for adoption, and some of the worst cruelty cases these investigators have to take on involve "bait dogs," which are dogs used as bait and "practice" for fighting dogs.
  • One episode of Badger (a TV series about a cop investigating wildlife crimes) involved breaking up a badger baiting ring.
  • Being Human: Vampires in this universe take the traditional dog fight and crank it up a notch. The result? Werewolf fights.
  • Bones: A Victim of the Week is a veteranarian who is trying to shut down a dogfighting ring.
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation did a Very Special Episode involving dogfighting...'Lying Down With Dogs', where a wealthy humanitarian was found dead and then found to be involved in dogfighting.
  • In Eastbound And Down, Kenny Powers moves to Mexico and is in the cockfighting business until his cock "Big Red" dies.
  • Friends: When Ross was looking for zoos to take his monkey Marcel, one of the prospects asks how good Marcel is with a knife, and it quickly becomes apparent that he's running some sort of animal fighting park.
  • A House episode involves a patient who catches psittacosis thanks to his involvement in a cockfighting ring.
  • There is a cockfighting scene in Roots.
  • A Seinfeld episode involves Kramer realizing that he has improbably come into custody of a fighting cock. When the fight comes, Kramer leaps in to save the cock.

Magazines
  • MAD had an article parodying bullfighting as the noble sport of Dog Kicking (literally).

Music
  • Tom Lehrer's "In Old Mexico", as quoted above.
  • The story song "El Gallo del Cielo" by Tom Russell is entirely about cockfighting, and the lyrics utilize detailed imagery of fighting pits, gamecocks, and gambling on the outcome of the fights.

Radio
  • Cockfighting plays a major role in the Bold Venture episode "Death By A Fighting Bird", where a gamecock is used as an Animal Assassin.

Tabletop RPG
  • Stormbringer supplement Demon Magic, adventure "The Velvet Circle." The Rooster's Wail is a cockfighting establishment in the Velvet Circle. Anyone is allowed to pit their fighting bird against another for a small fee. The current champion is named Desert Spur and belongs to the arena's owner. An adventure seed has Desert Spur being stolen and the PCs being implicated in the crime.

Theatre
  • The opera Carmen features a toreador as a major character, a well-known song about him, and a bullfight off-stage at the climax.

Video Games

Webcomics

Western Animation
  • The 1952 Bugs Bunny short Bully for Bugs has him facing off against a strong, fast and smart bull in a rather unconventional bullfight. Watch it here.
  • The 1930 cartoon Mexico shows Oswald the Lucky Rabbit challenging a bear in a cockfight.
  • The Secret Saturdays: The Saturdays break up an underground cryptid fighting ring in ''Cryptid vs. Cryptid".
  • A 1938 Popeye cartoon "Bulldozing the Bull" has Popeye in the ring with the bull. Throughout the whole cartoon Popeye protests that bullfighting is "inhumink to dumb anamals" and while he'll down his spinach to defend himself from an irate bull, he breaks a sword over his knee rather than deliver a killing blow, ultimately winning the bull's friendship.

Real Life
  • Real-life Gladiator Games in ancient Rome had this trope on mornings (both animals pitted against each other or lightly-armed fighters against animals), executions (including Fed to the Beast) at noon while most people had left the circus for lunch, and gladiator combat in the afternoon.
  • Boarhunting (called pigsticking during The Raj) was a nobleman's sport for ages. It was fairer than many as it was carried out with lances rather then missile weapons and wild boars were known for their ferocity; many were injured during boar hunts. In some ways it was practice for cavalry warfare.
  • The reason foxhunting is so elaborate is that it was developed as a substitute for boarhunting once boars had been hunted to extinction in many parts of Europe.
  • Bearbaiting — sometimes lionbaiting — was less fair in The Middle Ages. Macaulay wrote that the Puritans opposed bear-baiting, not because it hurt the bear but because this form of sport gave pleasure to the onlookers. This has inspired some people to observe that given the pleasure it gives — the Puritans has a point.
  • Cockfighting, while illegal in most of the world, is still a popular gambling activity. Actor Wilford "Diabeetus" Brimley has become notorious for campaigning for its legalization on the grounds that roosters often fight each other for mates in the wild, anyway (metal spurs and other performance enhancers notwithstanding, but these would presumably be banned from a legal, officially regulated version).
  • Beetle fighting is also widely practiced and bet on in Asian countries, including Japan. Unlike cockfighting it's usually legal and generally considered more wholesome in that beetles don't have the same kind of central nervous system as chickens and presumably don't feel pain the way they do and besides which, most fights take place on top of a log and are decided by Ring Out, serious injuries being a rare occurrence. It's also debatable whether it can be classified as a blood sport, since insects do not technically have blood, but rather a bluish compound called hemolymph.


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