Defining sports in general is often a subjective mission muddled by much disagreement. But in the case of blood sports, the fundamental simplicity of it allows for an exception. In the broadest sense, a blood sport entails just what its words imply: a sport that results in bloodshed. As far as mainstream sports may be concerned, examples are limited to the likes of boxing and cagefighting, although the historical sport of gladiatorial combat does certainly qualify, as well. But in terms of animal blood sports, examples are far more plentiful, ranging from things as innocuous as fishing, to anything as barbarous as cockfighting. And while understandably it may be difficult to consider something as horrible as dogfighting to be a sport, keen awareness and understanding of its involvements is the best hope for its prevention.
10.) Betta Fighting
If you’re a misanthrope, consider the betta your spirit animal. Known for their strict preference for solitude, betta fish are intolerant of their own species and will instinctually fight one another when confronted. Exploitation of bettas first appeared some four or six hundred-years ago in Southeast Asia, where to this day, betta fighting remains as a popular gambling practice. Its sport involves pitting two bettas (typically males, as males will be more aggressive) in a confined space, usually a small bowl or jar; spectators place bets on matchups and a referee determines its winners.
Bullfighting, though hugely contested by proponents of animal rights, is inextricably connected to the culture of Spain and near synonymous with the nation itself. In spite of all of its brutality, bullfighting truly is an incredible sight to see. Grown bulls are some of the most powerful beasts that walk this planet, and the showmanship of the matador being likened to artistic display is an argument not feebly made. All the same, bullfighting is a gore-full ritual that puts the blood in blood sport and the sport in question.
8.) Rat Baiting
Following Parliament’s enforcement of the Cruelty to Animals Act 1835, which banned baiting of bulls and other large animals in England, gambling and baiting enthusiasts determined a loophole, baiting instead the small urban rodents known as rats. At its height, more than seventy known rat pits were operating London alone. Events involved dumping rats into large wooden pits and releasing a terrier for the purpose of killing them. Spectators placed bets on kill speed; one celebrated bull terrier named “Billy” killed rats at a rate of one-per-3.6-seconds; “Jaco,” another famed bull terrier, once killed two hundred rats in under fifteen-minutes. Needless to say, rat baiting in England was a clear and obvious exploitation of, and perversion against, the innocence of animals. Social pressures from disgusted outsiders would eventually be its undoing. The last known public rat baiting competition took place in 1912.
7.) Goose Pulling
From the 17th through 19th centuries, goose pulling was a popular blood sport in the Netherlands, England, Belgium, and as well as in parts of the United States. The sport involved greasing the head and neck of a live goose and fastening its legs to a horizontally placed pole or overhanging tree branch. Participants would then take turns riding horseback at full speed to try and pull the goose’s head off as they rode past it from underneath. To this day, goose pulling still occurs in some pocketed communities in the Netherlands, although nowadays, a dead goose is used the place of a live one.
If not for its notoriety, noodling would have ranked as more incredible. As a staple of rural culture in the American South, noodling has picked up some novelty flair in recent years thanks to its exposure on television shows like River Monsters among others. The fishing method that is noodling is unthinkably brilliant: the angler sacrifices his or her own hands as literal bait and hook, punching deep into underwater caverns of enormous, potentially man-sized catfish, hoping to engage a vise-grip bite that allows for wrestling the bottom feeder up to the surface. Not surprisingly, noodling comes with some risk of injury. Loss of digits and even full fingers is known to happen, and catfish being as large enough to drown overambitious noodlers do exist.
5.) Bear Baiting
Popular in England until banning in 1835, bear baiting resurged in Pakistan in 2004 in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, despite its illegality under the Qur’an. During such events, bears that have been declawed and detoothed are tethered through the mouth or nostrils, while fighting dogs are sicced to attack them. Shockingly unjust, bear bating is nothing more than sheer torture of the animals involved. Its presence in Pakistan has come at the indignation of many, and although wildlife authorities have worked tirelessly to bring it to its end, the problem persists. As bears are not native, they are illegally sourced. Local warlords are believed responsible.
4.) Monkey Baiting
Dogfighting was rampant through much of the 18th and 19th centuries in Great Britain, and interspecial matches between dogs and other animals were quite common. The most infamous variant of such matches involved baiting dogs against monkeys. Although fighting dogs were well adept in handling most interspecial matchups, primate opponents proved formidable due to their superior intelligence, nimble dexterity, strategic fighting styles and ability for tool use. The most famed monkey to have fought in such events was a wild-caught male known by the name of “Jacco Macacco.” Jacco fought wielding a club, and was noted for his fierce demeanor and signature killmove, which was to pierce the windpipes of his opponents with his large and sharp canines. The exact taxonomy of Jacco remains unknown. Evidence of his identity suggests he may have been a Gibbon, although records detailing his ferocity and large canines have led some to believe Jacco was probably a mandrill.
3.) Fox Tossing
Fox tossing was a popular blood sport through scattered parts of Europe for a couple of centuries in the Middle Ages. Typically reserved for aristocrats, fox tossing was a quite simple sport. Participants lined themselves up in rows on open fields and launched foxes and other small mammals up at the sky. As somewhat of a risky sport for participants, the warm-blooded missiles that were used would often bite and scratch clinging for dear life; the effect of free fall down to earth was normally fatal.
2.) Octopus Wrestling
Octopus wrestling first appeared in the late 1940’s and, peaking in the 1960’s with the onset of the World Octopus Wrestling Championships, the sport since has all but faded from not-so-common knowledge. But during the reign of its heyday, octopus wrestling enjoyed a strong cult following along coasts of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. There, octopus wrestlers competed, diving into shallow ocean waters to wrestle and capture live octopuses and drag them to the shore.
1.) Human Baiting
Although occurrences were rare, the mere fact of its ever happening is sign enough to know that animal rights reform in England had been long overdue. Human baiting in Great Britain is known to have existed during the 1800’s by the accounts of three documented cases, in which men were baited to fight against dogs. In all three cases, the men suffered serious injuries. Only in one of the cases did the man manage to win, defeating his opponent by way of knockout—The New York Times, however, has disputed this.
Written by: Lucas Meyer