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Beastly Bloodsports

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Bear Baiting, 1795 (from The Sporting Magazine, London)
"I cheered at the banderilleros' 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!"

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.


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    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.
  • Catwoman breaks up a dog fighting ring in Batman Eternal #23. The ring sometimes pits exotic animals against the dogs and this time were using an endangered leopard.
  • Parodied in a one-page gag of The Smurfs, where the Smurfs gather around a coliseum to see Lazy Smurf engage in a bullfight, only to reveal that the "wild beast" he was taming was actually a snail.
  • Played straight in Red Sonja: Art of Blood and Fire arc. Kalayah the Beastmaster runs one with bears, dogs, tigers, and giant centipedes among other things.
  • The Vault of Horror story "The Pit!" (#40, 1954) has competing cockfighting and dogfighting rings; the money-hungry women who run them are jealous of each other's profits and goad their Henpecked Husbands into escalating the fights to draw more customers until the two men decide to pit the women against each other. Got a No Animals Were Harmed adaptation for the Tales from the Crypt TV show, where the husbands are MMA fighters whose wives are their overcompetitive managers.
  • Baker Street: The Baskerville's club runs ratting pits as 'entertainment' for its patrons. Dogs are pitted against rabid rats; with bets being placed on how many rats a dog can kill before it succumbs to rat bites.

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

    Films — Animated 
  • In The Book of Life, Manolo objects to killing bulls at the climax of bullfights, which infuriates his father and many of the late Sanchez relatives.
  • In Osmosis Jones, Ozzy breaks up a "chicken pox" fight to get to The Informant, namely, a flu-shot. The chicken pox viruses are depicted as, well, chickens.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • In the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, two of the title team are among those attending space cockfighting on Knowhere. It involves betting on multiple small alien lizards that get chased and eaten by a larger alien, the last small lizard standing wins.
  • In Mary Poppins, Mary and her friends in the chalk drawing outing wander into a fox hunt and Bert decides to give the fox a hand to help him escape.
  • Snatch. has Brick Top's dogfighting racket and the pikeys' hare coursing.
  • Amores Perros features savage dogfight scenes.
  • Jarhead: The Marines are shown passing the time by getting two scorpions to fight each other to the death. The smaller one's death saddens its keeper quite a bit.
  • In the Charles Bronson movie Death Hunt, Bronson's character Albert Johnson breaks up a dogfight after he arrives in the Yukon frontier town and rescues a wounded dog. The locals try to get payback for this by laying siege to Johnson's cabin, killing the dog in the process.
  • In Attack of the Clones, Anakin, Padmé, and Obi-Wan are almost killed by animals in the arena on Geonosis.
  • White God: The film's main character, Hagen the dog, is at one point taken by a fighting dog trainer and entered into matches.
  • One of the entertainments being offered in the tavern in Nassau in Anne of the Indies is a man wrestling a bear.
  • Eyes of an Angel: The film is about Bobby, who works for a gang who operates a dogfighting ring. One dog, a Doberman, performs poorly and gets disposed of, but it survives, and who should find it, nurse it to health and adopt if not Bobby's daughter? The dog gets dragged into another dog fight at the end, which ends with him turning against Bobby's former boss.
  • A Gunfight opens with a bullfight taking place in the village across the border. It is this event that gets Tenneray reasoning that if people will pay to watch a bull die, then they will pay to watch a man die.
  • One flashback in The Mountie has Grayling breaking up a Chinese dog fighting ring: an encounter that quickly turns into a shootout.

  • In The Cross Time Engineer by Leo Frankowski, one of Conrad Stargard's first controversial acts is to euthanize a bear that's being used for bear-baiting. Unfortunately this makes an enemy of the knight who had spent months setting up a trap for it.
  • 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.
  • Discworld
    • 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.
    • It's mentioned in Soul Music that — perhaps surprisingly, given its general Wretched Hive nature — most blood sports are banned in Ankh-Morpork. CMOT Dibbler considers that putting the Dreadful Musicians Ande Supporting Bandes on stage and waiting to see what the crowd does to them might fill this gap in the market.
  • Jane Yolen's Pit Dragon Chronicles is set in a society where dragon-fighting is popular (dragon vs. dragon, directed by their human Mindlink Mates).
  • War With No Name: Wawa the pit bull was used for dogfighting.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • On the other hand in The Puppetmasters, the Puppeteer Parasite aliens decide they quite like this aspect of human culture, and decide to liven things up by giving the bull an even chance by having one of them take over the bull so it's as smart as the matador.
  • Queen Scarlet of Wings of Fire forces other dragons (and occasionally humans) to fight each other in a pit, gladiator-style.
  • Nick Velvet gets involved in bullfighting in "The Theft of the Matador's Cape". Nick watches a bullfight at one point but finds the spectacle disgusting.
  • In the Rivers of London novels, the Faceless Man recruits some Mooks who've been holding illegal dogfights at their farm, so that he can tap magical energy from the animals' aggression and bind the spirits of dogs that die in the ring to charge up his demon-traps.
  • In The Silver Branch, Justin visits a cockfight while stationed at Hadrian's Wall to hand off a tablet containing details of Allectus' plot to Evicatos of the Spear to deliver to Carausius.
  • In Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers, the Ganymede Mafia run giant snail fights. The Gambling Addict Macintyre claims there's nothing more thrilling than watching one snail take three hours to score a hit, and its opponent retreat into its shell for the rest of the day.
  • Alex Rider: Alex involuntarily becomes a matador during a bullfight in Eagle Strike.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The people of Slavers' Bay really like these kind of sports. When Dany goes there to buy slave soldiers, their owner invites her to go see a game that night where three children are slathered in different condiments and thrown into a bear pit, with wagers placed on which one lasts longest.
  • The children's book The Story of Ferdinand and the film that's based on it show bullfighting from the bulls' point of view.

     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- or cock-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. Fighting roosters are usually put down as well, as home adoption is seldom an option for poultry even without aggression issues, and concerns about avian disease means they can't be taken anywhere near a chicken farm.
  • Badger:
    • In "Setts, Lies and Videotape", Tom breaks up a badger baiting ring.
    • In "Cock o' the Walk", Tom and Cassidy investigate a cockfighting ring.
  • Being Human (both versions): 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 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 & 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 (a disease primarily contracted from birds) thanks to his involvement in a cockfighting ring.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: In "Inhumane Society", the career of a promising young boxer is derailed when authorities discover he's at the center of a dog fighting ring.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: In "Let Loose the Dogs", Murdoch investigates a murder that centres around a ratting contest. The victim turns out to have been doping the dogs.
  • There is a cockfighting scene in Roots (1977).
  • 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.
  • On Penny Dreadful, Dorian takes Ethan to a rat-baiting pit for a bit of gritty entertainment.

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

  • Tom Lehrer's "In Old Mexico", on the album An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer, includes a lengthy description of a bullfight, and the crowd's hope "that death would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon." Played for laughs.
  • 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.
  • The music video for "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons depicts one of these, with the beasts being stuffed animals.

  • 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 Games 
  • 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.

  • 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 
  • The town of Toroledo in Alundra 2 has a bullfighting ring as a Betting Minigame. The twist is that the fights are bull vs bull rather than bull vs matador.
  • Dragon Quest VIII has Mori's Monsterous Pit, where the player is given a starter set and is tasked with finding and recruiting stronger ones to battle in the arena.
  • Kingdom of Loathing has an adventure in the South of the Border area where you can bet on a cockfight — or refuse in disgust: "This flagrant display of cruelty to living creatures disgusts you. You decide to head back to the Icy Peak and eviscerate some more Yetis."
  • Mass Effect 2 lets Shepard bet on Varren (alien dog thing) fights.
  • Pokémon is a notable aversion — or at least avoidance — of the idea that animal fighting is always despicable, but then again, they are Mix-and-Match Critters and other fantasy animals, not real ones.
  • In Thief you can eavesdrop on a conversation between two guards discussing bear fighting; one will lament that he remembers fighting bears being more savage when he was younger, and the pit owners didn't need to give the bears paw hooks or razor collars to keep the fights interesting.
  • Law & Order: Legacies uses a cockfight as a plot point. With a man having died because of a rooster with a spur had slashed him, but with a twist that he would have survived if his wife would have called police.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a skooma den near Riften had evidence of this going on such as caged pit wolves and a small arena area with a bloody wolf corpse inside it.
    • Another one is in a fort occupied by bandits and you can actually see wolves fighting when you enter the room where the fighting takes place. It’s also revealed later into the fort that the bandits’ cook has been killing the wolves for meat to feed the bandits, who refuse to eat anything but meat.
  • "The Thorn" from Fallout: New Vegas is an underground arena with various mutant creatures that offers both creature vs. creature and creature vs. human fights. You can bet on fights, take part in one or search for creature eggs to restock the arena menagerie.
  • The cockfight mini-game in Sleeping Dogs allows you to place bets on roosters.
  • In Gears of War 3, a small Easter Egg in one of the Savage Locust camps allows the player to peek in through a window and see a group of Locust huddled around a small ring watching two Tickers fighting each other.


    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.
    • Don't be a bullfighter, because kindness is righter, Says Popeye the Sailor Man
  • The Batman Beyond episode "Ace in the Hole" tells the story of Bruce's dog Ace, who had been raised for dogfighting, escaped during a police raid, and met Bruce during one of his annual visits to Crime Alley. Ace spots and chases the dogfighting operation ringleader, which leads to Batman tracking him down and finding out he's only gotten worse over the years, using an experimental growth hormone on the dogs to turn them into monsters. After fighting the biggest one, Batman puts him out of business.
  • In the Samurai Jack episode "Chicken Jack" the eponymous samurai is polymorphed into a chicken, and then forced to fight robot animals.
  • South Park has "Cock Magic", in which chickens are forced to play Magic: The Gathering in underground tournaments.
  • The Dragons: Race to the Edge episode "Triple Stryke" reveals dragon fighting is one of the many uses the dragon hunters use their captives for. The heroes are no more forgiving of the people who pay to watch than they are of the hunters who stage the fights.
  • In The Smurfs episode "Smurf Me No Flowers", Lazy Smurf, who thinks he's dying, decides to make one of the last things he does before he passes away "taming a wild beast", which means participating in a bull fight. The Smurfs, fearing for Lazy's safety, swap out a harmless cow disguised as a bull and make it look like it was charging at him.
  • Love, Death & Robots: "Sonnie's Edge" features battles to the death between bioengineered beasts controlled remotely by human pilots.

    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 than 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.
  • 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).
    • In the Philippines, where it is legal, cockfighting is Serious Business. Many of the larger breeders treat their cocks in the same manner as professional athletes with facilities for exercise and sparring, as well as experts on hand for proper nutrition and veterinary care. The country also usually hosts the World Slasher Cup, basically the World Cup of cockfighting, on a biannual basis.
    • There is an ancient Greek story that a Spartan was once offered a couple of fighting cocks on the market. When he asked whether they are good, the merchant told him "sir, they fight until they die". The Spartan thought and said "nah, I need ones that fight until they kill".
    • Agricultural historians suspect that the main reason chicken-breeding spread across the Pacific was because of this trope. Seabirds provided a more convenient source of meat, eggs and feathers for islanders than domestic fowl could, considering the extra labor involved in tending to captive poultry, but a victorious fighting cock could win its owner a much better payoff, both economically and socially.
  • 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 (as beetles' horns are not meant to kill but subdue). 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.
    • Cricket fighting is also popular in Asia, but unlike the beetle fights, these are more violent as the crickets are well capable of killing each other.
    • A variation is practiced in the Southwestern U.S., using scorpions instead of beetles to make the whole thing more dramatic.
    • Insect fighting rings are popular in some places, pitting vicious creepy-crawlies likes scorpions, hornets, mantises, and tarantulas against each other to the death. In fact, the aforementioned cricket fights formed the basis for the Pokémon franchise.
  • Organized fights between stallions are traditional, if often illegal, events in parts of China and the Philippines, mainly during New Year celebrations. Ritualized versions of this practice crop up in the history of Thailand, parts of South Korea and Indonesia, and medieval Iceland.
  • "Canned hunts", in which the designated prey animal is released from a cage and prevented from leaving the area so a paying customer can shoot it, are an ugly modern variant of this trope.
  • One now-illegal bloodsport popular in western countries in the past was rat-baiting, in which a dog (usually a terrier) would be placed in a large pit full of rats. Bets were made over how many rodents the dog could kill in a certain time limit.
  • Betta fish. In some places, particularly Southeast Asia, betta fish fights are popular, especially due to the idea that bettas will fight to the death. (Only in captivity, or when they get stuck in tiny puddles during the dry season in the wild; normal betta fights end in a kind of Loser Leaves Town fashion.) In fact, that's how bettas got their alternate name: Siamese fighting fish.
  • Robot Combat sports could be considered a cruelty- and blood-free successor to this nonhuman-combatants-rip-each-other-up-for-entertainment trope.


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