Roosters and Their Owners Often Look Alike

Taking up from where Erin left us, we left the artisan market and headed back up to the livestock market, which is where we were told the rooster fight was going to take place.  Luckily, we were able to find the green tent with the rooster ring. Otavalo When we arrived, there were just a few people with their roosters hanging around, talking.  So we asked when they would start, “right now!” they said.  But I didn’t really believe them, so we went out to walk around a bit more then returned in an hour to catch the very beginning of the event.

The first piece of confusion was where to sit.  There were seats on the other side of the entrance, but how to get there?  Oh, clearly, you simply step over the ring, walk through it, then step over the other side and hop up.  This is not exactly an overly formal event.  Otavalo Then, the fight started.  The two owners put their roosters down at the whistle from a referee and then they just go at each other, with the owners screaming at them, “Hecho! Pica! Eso es!”  Watching the owners alone was fantastic people watching.  When a break came because a talon fell off, or the roosters became entangled, some of the owners would take the entire head of the rooster in their mouth and suck off all their blood.  Yuck!  Ewww, it makes my stomach churn just thinking about that sight.  Rooster head in mouth, then the owner spitting out chicken blood.  Everytime Erin would look away and mutter how gross it was.  And it really was disgusting.  But hey, that’s culture, right?  That’s why we’re all the way up in the Ecuadoran mountains, rising before dawn and searching out a rooster fight, right?

After the fight, all the people who placed bets would find their debtor and get paid, then move over to the examination table to take a look at the next roosters fighting.  They would pick them up, feel their legs and wings, pluck a few feathers to see how it reacted, feel the beak, everything that comes into play into this type of event.  Then, they would place bets.  They would come back to the ring and shout out the odds they were giving. Otavalo It was incredibly confusing because there was no official odds.  People would be shouting out “paying 5 to 4!” while then next guy over would shout, “paying 10 to 9″  and so forth.  People would accept from across the ring and that would be it.  There was no escrow or anything, just a nod and a finger point.  Halfway through the fight, people would shout out more odds, “paying double!” or “paying 10 to 1″ and the owners, through pride I suppose, would often take these bets, picking up their pride and glory rooster, pointing at whoever gave poor odds to their rooster, wag their finger and call them names, all the while accepting the bet.  They would always lose.  10 to 1 is not good odds, unless you really believe in the rooster soul you’re carrying like a baby.

There were maybe 50 people watching this entire spectacle, with maybe 4 women in the group.  Most were participants, some were bettors, and some were simply watching, taking a saturday afternoon off for some entertainment.  The participants would sit in the stands with their roosters, waiting for their turn.  It’s a little weird to turn your head around and see a rooster looking you in the eye from 6 inches away.  But being that close to the action was part of the event.  We were able to touch and feel some of the fighters, checking their bones and wings and legs.  I didn’t know what I was looking for, really, but it was fun nonetheless.

OtavaloNow, the part about rooster fights that seem to be so controversial is the talons that they attach.  I know when Ryan saw them in Nicaragua, they used a small blade so that the roosters would slice each other.  This is how I saw it in Mexico years ago.  But here, they’ve carved small thorns from the horn of a bull.  This ended up being, to me, a much better way to do it, since it replicates what the roosters have in nature.  The natural talon will never slice another rooster in a fight, but it will pierce if it strikes correctly.  This is what the bullhorn talon replicates, but with greater hardness, sharpness and piercing ability.  The knife is a totally different instrument which ends up slicing the roosters.  Not to say that the talons were the most humane things, but I felt it was a nice change from the blades, which seem more brutal.  I ended up picking up a pair for the bullhorn talons for $5.  Totally worth it.