October 04, 2007

Top Story: Rooster men fighting to save their dying breed | fighting, jose, birds - Brownsville Herald

Top Story: Rooster men fighting to save their dying breed | fighting, jose, birds - Brownsville Herald: "Jose and the thousands of other gamecock breeders across the state, who refer to each other as cockers, rooster men or galleros, are watching the slow suffocation of cockfighting’s history and tradition. They fear they may become pallbearers for a sport that has fascinated the wealthiest royals and the poorest migrant workers for centuries. Over the past decade, animal rights activists have largely won their campaign to paint cockfighting as a brutal blood sport. Bans on cockfighting exist in every state, including New Mexico and Louisiana — two long holdouts which criminalized the sport this year. Many, including Texas, have toughened their animal fighting laws, making organized cockfighting a felony. And recent federal statutes that prohibit the transfer of gamecocks across state boundaries have sucked the life out of gatherings that once drew cockers from across the nation. Still, the rooster men of the Rio Grande Valley carry on. Hundreds of gamecock breeders operate on rural ranches and in backyard pens from Roma to Brownsville. They continue their work in the law’s gray areas, legally raising the aggressive fowl but barred from selling them for fighting purposes.

“If you want to fight them, that’s your business,” Jose said.

Still, many in the gamefowl community remain suspicious of outsiders. Jose asked that his last name be withheld from this story so as not to draw attention from police and neighbors.

But ask any true cocker about his passion, and he’ll tell you the thrill has little do with violence. It comes, Jose said, from a healthy admiration of the rooster’s natural competitiveness.

“I’ve told my wife that my roosters are my first love, and she’s my second,” he said. “She didn’t like that very much at all.”

...Dave, a third-generation rooster man who runs a breeding farm near Los Fresnos, recalled proudly surveying the fighting cocks on his grandfather’s dairy farms in Michigan.

“The gamecock is a royal chicken compared to your ordinary barnyard rooster,” he said. “Their actions of daily foraging, strutting and intense guardianship of their harem fascinated me from a very young age.”

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