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Creature Feature: Roosters Seized from Cockfighters

For chickens living as nature intended, the world is a logical place. Hens can put their feet on solid earth, the perfect foundation for a cozy, private nest of leaves and twigs. Roosters can fulfill their protective roles, alerting their harems to both impending dangers and delectable delights. Like so many animals, chickens flock together, relying on a hierarchical social system complex enough that we humans have adopted chicken-related phrases to describe our own intricate “pecking orders.” Often just symbolic, the struggles for dominance among roosters in their natural environment involve a kind of specialized dance complete with feather-fluffing and comb-pecking. Eventually, the loser assumes a slumped posture and runs away while the winner crows about his victory.

“They’ll also fly at each other with their feet,” says Pattrice Jones, cofounder of Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center, a chicken refuge in Princess Anne, Maryland. “But nobody dies from this. If you think about evolution, it would not be smart for them to fight so hard.”

Chickens raised for cockfighting, however, are a different kind of animal. Unlike their wild brethren sitting in trees in the jungles of Southeast Asia, gamefowl have been selectively bred for aggressive tendencies for centuries, says John Goodwin, deputy manager of animal fighting issues for The Humane Society of the United States. “Fighters breed these animals to artificially depress their natural instinct to quit once beaten,” he says. “They exaggerate the ‘gameness.’ ”

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