Date of Award:

1986

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Clyde Milner II

Abstract

The scope of this thesis is to make a statement on the sport of cockfighting as it is practiced in the counties of northern Utah. It is a sport that has a long and colorful history, a unique body of lore and is practiced by serious, dedicated men.

Cockfighting history emanated from the Manu code of India through the Greek and Roman civilizations, spreading from there both east and west till it girdled the globe. The Roman traditions largely influenced the English Cockers who brought their sport to the American colonies. The southern gentry were quick to adopt the sport, where it continues to flourish to this day.

The sport spread west with the frontier and found its way to Utah early in the state's history. The Utah cockers follow the traditions of the southern cockers with some influence from the Mexican methods.

I was introduced to cockfighting at age fourteen and have been a devotee since. Through my studies in folklore I developed a keen interest in the body of folklore inherent in the sport. The methods of feeding, conditioning and fighting the battle cock are greatly influenced by folk practice. The concept I have labeled "folklaw" is also present as it applies to cockfighting.

The folklaw concept is the way the tension is resolved between the folk group engaged in an illegal sport and the law enforcement arm of the parent society. The code of the cockers is also protected in some degree by the same enforcement arm.

The cockers function as a folk group by passing tradition, craft ways and tales from one generation to the next. Because of the illegality of their sport, the cocker groups have a natural insularity. This makes for group coherence and integrity.

The cocker groups have a rich body of lore and ways that needs to be observed in the light of reason and impartiality rather than in the glare of media sensationalism. This study attempts to fulfill that purpose.

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