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How the blakliz came into being
By Rey Bajenting
Year 2000 when I decided to quit my jobs from government and the media. I went back to my true love, caring for the gamefowl. After all I had been in the rooster game long before I became a newspaperman, PR practitioner and public affairs consultant. I was a professional feeder and handler in Cebu for nearly two decades in the 1970s and 80’s. Thanks God, for my success as a professional roosterman that enabled me to lay the foundation to support my growing family.
On my come back to sabong, I had only wanted to produce a few head of chickens for my personal satisfaction and for fighting. But, later, on suggestion by a very good friend Erning Panuncillo (deceased) to make available to ordinary sabungeros and upstart breeders high quality bloodlines at affordable prices. At the time I had no experience in breeding, so I did my homework.
First I studied the intricacies of breeding by devouring all the reading materials about the subject I could get hold of. I also drew a lot of ideas from my experience being a rooster fighting man through most of my life and incorporated them with what I learned from my research. Also, at about that time, magazines and tv shows on sabong started proliferating, thus, it did not take long for me to acquire a wealth of knowledge on breeding the gamefowl.
I also visited long time and old friends in the sabong world to consult with them. It is on one of such visits that I found the inspiration to breed the blakliz. I was at the place of an uncle, a lawyer, who had been a famous cocker in Cebu. At the time of my visit he was already on semi-retirement from cockfighting. Among the few remaining stock at his yard was a brown red cock that caught my attention. It turned out to be a Richard Bates black cross that had already won 6 times. It was already more than four years old then, but was still set for another fight. When we sparred the cock, I was impressed by its fighting ability. I asked my uncle then if I could have him. Being a 6-time winner and with good looks and excellent fighting attributes, the old cock deserved to be a brood cock. After all, in a fast sport like ours, a three time winner is already hard to come by, let alone a six-timer.
The problem was my uncle had already committed to join the fiesta derby in our hometown and he was somewhat short of chickens, so he had to include the old cock in the selection. He told me though to come back after the derby, because anyway the brown red would surely win, he quipped. True enough it won. And, I got my first brood cock. My uncle also let me have an imported blue face hen given to him by a client. I brought the pair home, already toying with the name blackliz for the
bloodline they will found. Black because I anticipated producing black chickens and liz, after my wife Liz. Much later, I changed the spelling from blackliz to blakliz. Removing the letter “c“ somehow sharpened the name.
Thus, the blakliz started with a cross between a 7-time winner 5-year old Richard Bates black and an equally aging blue face hen. That was in 2001. The mating only produced 2 pullets and no stag. The health of the brood cock started deteriorating after the first season, apparently, due to the many wounds sustained in battle, so I was not able to breed it again. The following year I acquired ponkan, the original brood cock that eventually founded our ponkan bloodline. On the sidelines, ponkan was then also bred to one of the black pullets of the brown red x blue face mating. The following year a couple of the black offspring were then bred back to ponkan in a back-to-father line breeding.
Despite being 3/4 of ponkan’s blood, there were still some black pullets and brown red stags among the offspring. There were eight stags in all. Five of the stags were dark red and only three were brown reds. Since I was after the dark plumage, I gave away the reddish stags to friends and relatives. I kept the three brown reds and single mated them to their black sisters. I also discarded the reddish pullets.
Two of the brown red stags I bred were named “sipsip” and “butsukoy” (Cebuano word that roughly translates to smart or naughty). Butsukoy was called as such because every time I open the door leading to feed stock room, he immediately rushed in ahead of me to partake of the feed inside. On the other hand, sipsip made it a routine to fly to my shoulder, as if to please me to gain some favor in return or to make sipsip, every time I emerged from the stock room carrying the pale of feed. As result sipsip always got the first peck at the ration.
At the end of the breeding season I conditioned and fought the three brown reds and fought them in a 3-cock derby despite their tender age of just 13 months. This was in order to test the mettle of the brothers and in effect the bloodline I am trying to set. Sipsip and butsukoy won handily and quickly. The unnamed one lost after almost 8 minutes despite being crippled in the opening buckles. I was happy with what happened. The two winners proved that the bloodline can kill quickly. The loser showed that there might be some endurance and gameness in them too. As bull stag butsukoy won twice more and lost his fourth fight. While sipsip also won two more fights and got retired as a test brood cock for our organic yards.
In 2004 I fought eight sons of sipsip, butsukoy and the unnamed one as stags. Of the three sons of butsukoy only one won and two lost. A son of the unnamed one won, another lost. All three of sipsip sons won. The total was five wins three loses. Not bad, especially considering that they were in-bred products of already in-bred brother-sister matings.
What was not good was the fact that of the five winners four died due to mortal wounds inflicted during the fights. The other one was too badly blemished that it has to be euthanized. Therefore, not one of the eight sons of sipsip. Butsukoy and the unnamed one managed to survive to fight another day. Another alarming thing with the result was the downtrend of the pit performance from the preceding to the current generation. While sipsip and his brothers won a total of six fights against two loses, their offspring only won five out of eight.
Two things were immediately clear: First, Sipsip with all three sons winning their fights was the better producer among the brothers. (The mother was also marked as the better producer among the sisters.); second, that the current generation was no better, or even worse, than the previous generation, so it was not worth keeping. So no further testing was necessary. Already, this soon, something had to be done about the bloodline. Clearly sipsip and his mate had the better offspring, thus I kept all the black pullets out of sipsip and discarded the pullets out of butsukoy and the unnamed one. I further concluded that the line characteristically absorbed blows because regardless of the fights’ outcome, win or loss, they invariably came out of the pit badly damaged. With Erning and other friends we diagnosed the problem as lack of speed. They packed some power and cut well, but they were not fast enough to follow through on their advantage or to evade the opponents counter blows. Our solution was to infuse a speed bloodline.
Opportunity came in 2005, when Jesse Ledesma won the PAGBA stag derby. His last fight was a black bonanza stag that clinched him the championship in spectacular fastest kill fashion. Through the intercession of my friend and cocking buddy Raul Ebeo, who was at the derby, I managed to acquire said champion stag. This stag was then bred to the pullets out of sipsip. The result was satisfactory so I set them as a bloodline. They were the first blakliz. This became the foundation and the composition of the blakliz for some generations. Somewhere along the way I infused the Aguirre grey to the blakliz. This accounted for the dirty grey version of the blakliz I called midnight grey. Recently majority of mating of the blakliz were between midnight grey and the original blend sipsip blakliz. The mating produced the better performers in the 2010-2011stag seasons during which we performed creditably in Rambulan 1, Heritage Cup and Bakbakan.
Currently the composition of the blakliz came from the bloods of five exceptional brood cocks—ponkan the original; sipsip; the Bonanza of Ledesma; black vest, the best among the first midnight greys; and a new blue face that came from my “migo” Jason Garces. Out of them evolved three main families of blakliz; the midnight grey (infused with Aguirre grey); the blakliz plus (plus the blue face) and the original blend (the Ledesma-sipsip line). By blending the three lines we got the best of the blakliz battle pure.
As a bloodline, the blakliz is still very new. It has not passed the ultimate trial yet, which is the test-of-time. Although lately it has contributed to our humble successes, the blakliz has yet to win a major title on its own. At present, all the blakliz got are an acceptable winning percentage (Almost 70%, whereas our passing grade is 60%) and lots of promise. Indeed enough promise to keep a practical breeder like me to keep on breeding the blakliz. For some years, I kept the bloodline for myself. Now I have gained enough confidence on the the blakliz to make them available to friends, clients and buyers.
But the blakliz is not for ordinary breeder. It is for those who dare to be different.
Harvesting your stags
By Rey Bajenting
Harvest time is here. This is the time of the year that breeders harvest the stags in the range. It is one of the most satisfying moments of the season.
At this time, caretakers should give attention to the range area. They should be watching for aggressive stags that have to be harvested right away. Extra measures should be taken very early in the morning and late in the afternoon. Stags tend to fight during these times of the day. Because of limited light, some stags cannot recognize the stags higher in the peaking order and will decide to fight back when attacked. This reasoning also applies during rainy days when stags are wet and may look unusual.
It is also at this time of the year that we have to prepare the facilities and activites necessary when stags have been harvested. If we don’t intend to fight the stags in the stag derbies it would be much better to leave them at the cord area for maturing. All we have to do immediately after harvesting the stag is to delouse, de-worm (better with natural de-wormer) and put them in a small enclosure to tame them. A false tie-cord put alternately on the legs will accustom the stags to the tie-cord. When the stags have been tamed and ready, you may transfer them to the cording area.
A stag left alone to grow naturally is better for bullstag fighting than stags that were conditioned for fighting while still stags.
If we intend to fight in the stag derbies these are the things to remember and do:
Prepare the facilities for harvest.
Small pens, usually the 3x3’ folding wire pens available in poultry supply stores. It is better to place the harvested stags first in small pens to tame them quicker. In smaller confinement it is easier to catch the stags when administering the post harvest care such as delousing, deworming, injection of supplements and bacterial flushing.
Hardening pens. Hardening pens should be spacious enough to accommodate the stag and pullet and high enough for the pair to roost. Adequate measurement will be 5x5x5’ or 6x6x6’ although of course the bigger the better.
Tie-cords. Aside from the regular tie cords, you may also prepare some high cords and long or running cords. High cords will exercise the stags’ wing and breast muscles. Long or running cords will exercise the legs and thigh muscles. The stags may take turns in occupying the different types of tie cords.
Scratch boxes. The stags should also be placed in scratch boxes regularly.
Lights. An area with available artificial lights will be very helpful in pre-conditioning and conditioning the stags.
Pullets. Prepare enough pullets to accompany the stag in confinement.
When the stag is caught it should be placed in the small pen to tame it and also for easier application immediate post harvest care. After a week or so, we will transfer the stag to a hardening pen together with a pullet. After a while the stags will be rotated from the hardening pens with pullets to the different tie cords and back.
Dubbing may be done 30-45 days after harvest. This is approximately also 45-60 days before the fight. Straight combs should be dubbed earlier to give more time for recovery because straight combed stags suffer bigger wounds and lose more blood when dubbed. Also stags with combs that interfere with the eyesight.
Preconditioning may begin after dubbing. Stags may be sparred more frequently at this point, 2 or even 3 times a week. But sparring should be limited to 3-4 buckles. Stags should be placed in the scratch box at least once a day and immediately every after sparring. Scratching will loosen up the muscles that were stressed by sparring. During the days stags are not sparred they should be trained by kahig and sampi.
Always take care that in the midst of all these exercises you don’t overwork the young warriors .
Immediately after harvest, delouse, de-worm and give the stags some antibiotics for bacterial flushing. From this point on, vitamin and mineral supplements may be given regularly. There are natural de-wormers that are effective. There is a set of natural dewormer, probiotic and flax seed for cardio vascular care that is very beneficial to chickens particularly during pre-con and conditioning. Others give some steroids and androgens. But unless you are familiar with the use or willing to study the intricacies of the application, it is advisable to stick to natural means of enhancing the stags testosterone level. The company of a female may do the trick.
Pound for pound, stags ought to have more nutrient than cocks. Because, whereas cocks need nutrients just for maintenance of bodily functions and locomotion, stags need additional nutrients essential for growth. For stags crude protein contents of the feeds should be around 17-18%. You may feed pigeon pellets and a little grains but add occasional whole eggs and beef liver to raise the protein level. This is more economical and efficient than feeding with expensive hi protein pellets. Stags also require more calcium and other minerals. Immediately after harvest we at RB Sugbo provides stags access to flax seed to compensate for proteins and omega 3 that were readily available to them while they were in the range but not when already confined to pens and tie cords.
Pro-biotic is also necessary to replenish the good bacteria that were killed along with the bad with the application of antibiotic for flushing. One of the negative aspects in using anti-biotic is that antibiotic cannot distinguish good bacteria from the bad and will kill both.
Most important, in the care of stags for fighting, is to keep in mind that in stag fighting we are trying to hasten the development of the chicken. We are trying to accomplish in a few months what would naturally take 2 years or more. We want to have a chicken mature enough for fighting at about 9 months of age.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has been successful in its campaign for animal welfare worlwide. It scored string of victories, including the final outlawing of cockfighting in the United States.
Now it has set its eye on doing the same to cockfighting in the Philippines.
This could be PETA's Waterloo.
Cockfighting or sabong is a multi-billion peso industry in the Philippines an archipelago country with a population of some 90 million. It is estimated that roughly 10 percent of country's adult male population is involved with sabong industry.
Ninety five percent (95%) of the about 1,500 provinces, cities and municipalities or Local Government Units (LGUs) have at least one cockpit. The bigger LGUs have two, three or more cockpits in their respective localities as the law provides that the number of cockpits a certain LGU may allow, depends on that particular LGU's population.
A 12 thousand-strong association of Pilipino sabungeros has formally filed with the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for recognition as a non-stock, non-profit corporation to be known as Masang Nagmamanok (MANA) Inc.
The primary objective of MANA is to provide welfare to and promote the interest of the common sabungeros. The fight for the preservation of cockfighting in the country is a collateral but inherent responsibility in pursuit of its primary objective.
Masang Nagmamanok (MANA) started as a nationwide movement of ordinary sabungeros, mostly small time cockers, backyard breeders and workers in the gamefowl industry-- the common sabungeros. Now it is counting as members the raisers of any kind of chicken, whether for sabong, eggs or meat production.
The first members of MANA were readers of the column LLamado Tayo by Rey Bajenting in the tabloid Tumbok. Bajenting a sabungero and gamefowl breeder from Cebu and founding director of Central Visayas Breeders Association (CVBA) also writes for Pitgames and Llamado magazines, and pahayagang Larga.
Sometime in mid 2007, a reader Boying Santiago of Camarines Sur, then the PIO of Bicol Gamefowl Breeders Association (BIGBA) suggested that common sabungeros form a nationwide movement through the column LLamado Tayo, with registration for membership done through text messaging. In 3 months, membership reached 2 thousand. This encouraged the primemovers to undertake direct recruitment through seminars and chapters. Numerous seminars have been conducted in different places and provinces in cooperation with companies engaged in the gamefowl industry.
One year later, membership of MANA was at more than 10 thousand. The bulk, about 70%, were garnered through text registration. The 30% of the members registered through seminars and chapters. It was, however ,certain that thousands more have heard of, MANA and supports its objectives but did not bother to register.
Bajenting, an accomplished cocker/breeder and popular author of gamefowl articles, books and columns, had been worried himself, and time and again wrote about what he called as false security Filipino cockfighters felt.
"Filipinos think that because of the numbers of sabungeros, including many holding government positions, cockfighting in the Philippines will never be in danger," He said.
" But we cannot underestimate PETA. It has the resources, the drive and most of all it knows pretty well how to wage a campaign," he added.
Steve del mar, the national president of MANA said that the main objective of MANA is to provide welfare, such as insurance, pension, education and medical plans and the likes, to the more than 1 million Filipinos who make a living or earn extra income from the sport of cockfighting. he said although sabong is legal in the Philippines, workers in the sabong industry are still considered an informal sector. This is also true with most of the workers in the other chicken industries.
"They do not even enjoy protection under the labor code nor any social security. They could not secure any kind of a loan from banks and similar institutions. It is about time somebody takes care of their welfare."
"The fight for the preservation of cockfighting as sport, industry and cultural heritage is necessary in the protection of the interest of these workers and sabungeros. We will face PETA all the way to the Philippine Legislature, even to the point of seeking representation through the country's party list system, if we can," del Mar said.
Other leaders of the group include, CVBA secretary Frank Rebosura, who is the treasurer of MANA, Manny Lumanao, who heads MANA- Mindanao; Arturo Mosqueda of MANA Visayas; Iriga City councilor Jessie Abonite and Boying Santiago of MANA Bicol; Isagani Dominguez of MANA Cavite; Anthony Espinosa of MANA NCR; and Col. Restituto Corpuz, head of MANA Luzon.
The group is banking on sheer numbers for they know that it is a numbers game. politicians will always favor the side that could give them more votes.
Sabong, indeed, has come a long way from being a lazy afternoon pastime in the pre-spanish and during the spanish time in the Philippines to the present day 50-billion peso industry.
In this modern day scenario, PETA, the goliath may find itself facing MANA, the Filipino David.
PROBIOTICS are a dietary supplement that increase the population of the 'good' bacteria (micro flora), which are needed in the intestinal tract in order to process food properly. The use of probiotics as a daily supplement has become a popular routine in the commercial poultry industry, particularly following antibiotic treatment. One commonly known probiotic is called Lactobacillus Acidophilus, and is naturally occurring in some food such as yogurt. But direct application through a liquid or powdered form mixed into drinking water is the most effective route.
Good bacteria also help fight off the bad bacteria that passes through the system, before it has a chance to take hold. Introducing probiotics into the digestive system everyday to ward off bacterial infection is known as 'selective exclusion'.
Selective exclusion is a very good way to keep your birds healthy and disease resistant throughout their life. I use probiotics in my own flock, along with a vitamin and mineral supplement on a daily basis. I also use probiotics before, during, and after both showing and breeding. For showing, the probiotics help the birds ward off most illnesses they could become exposed to in that environment. For breeding, one benefit is the tendency of the laying hens to drink more water, when the water is treated with flavored probiotics. Both breeding and showing are very stressful times in your birds' lives, and the vulnerability to disease increases during those times. The use of probiotics helps to reduce that vulnerability.
During times of stress or the use of antibacterials (antibiotics), hormonal changes can occur, causing the pH of the small intestine to rise. This allows existing bad bacteria to take a foothold in the lining of the intestine because of the deterioration of the protective mucus lining. Because of this, the 'villi' (little fingers), which normally exist in the small intestine, can be lost. Villi slow the movement of food as it passes through so that nutrients can be absorbed through the intestinal wall. The term 'going light' can occur when villi are lost. Increasing good gut bacteria through the use of probiotics will compete against the bad bacteria, change the pH environment, allow nutrient absorption, and prevent infection. Probiotic treatment has also shown an ability to stimulate appetite - a valuable thing when trying to maintain the weight of an ailing bird.
If you're not inclined to use probiotics on a daily basis, then at least consider their use immediately following antibiotic treatment. When your bird is treated with antibiotics, all bacteria are killed off - good and bad. Treating with probiotics immediately after the use of antibiotics, help to repopulate the gut with the good bacteria. In many cases, this can ward off a secondary infection, such as E Coli. E. Coli has been shown to exist in virtually all manure samples, but only becomes a problem when the digestive environment is friendly to its reproduction.
Thanks to K.J. Theodore for contributing this poultry article to poultryOne.com.
(This article came out in a regular issue of Pit Games; in Pit Games Legends of the Pit; and in Pit Games special edition on the best of the Legends of the Pit.)
The path to a legend
By Rey Bajenting
RB Sugbo Gamefowl Technology
In search of a breed, I discovered a legend.
I found the various stories behind the Philippine lemons -- the origin, the history, the future, as well as some myth.
But most of all I have come face to face with the living legends—the remarkable gentlemen that breed them.
From these master breeders, I gained deeper knowledge and wisdom that will guide me as I go about with my journey, as breeder and writer, to the fascinating world of the lemons.
Moreover, from some of them,, I also got beautiful specimen of the lemons to breed and behold.
My thanks to Mayor Juancho Aguirre, Mr. Paeng Araneta, Mr. Lance de la Torre, Mr. Choy Ampil and, Mr Joe Laureño for granting me interviews and lessons in the art of breeding and cocking.
And, to Mr. Mark Aguirre, who since then, has become a friend and partner. As well as to his buddy and fellow breeder Bobot Chua, who had been very helpful in providing me practical insight into the character of the lemons.
Of course, to my friend Glen Lim and to my cocking partners Steve Sarmago and Raul Ebeo for being with me through the trips and the treks to the cold mountains of Negros.
The Philippine Lemons:
The legend continues
By Rey Bajenting
RB Sugbo Gamefowl Technology
Yes, it was the great American cocker Duke Hulsey who, forty years ago, brought to the Philippines the seeds of the tree that was to become the Philippine lemons, but it were the Filipino breeders, mostly from Negros, who nurtured them into what they are now.
In the 60’s the great American breeder Duke Hulsey brought over to the country the lemon hackled red battle fowl he used in competing on behalf of Don Amado Araneta and son Jorge “Nene” Araneta. Most of these battle fowl were of Duke’s butcher-hatch-claret blend. They were the predecessors of the Philippine lemons.
Whether Duke had ever set them into a strain or just produced them as battle crosses was uncertain. Some of those he brought here might even be of different breeds as the late Duke Hulsey had many bloodlines.
No body could tell now with certainty, as nobody seemed to have asked then. What was important at the time was, no matter what they were, the hulseys were efficient killers.
Duke brought these fowl here in the 60’s yet. Those years were then considered a new era in Philippine cockfighting. It was the advent of imported roosters that came in from the United States.
Now, forty years later as the sport experienced a welcome transformation from an ordinary Filipino pastime to a full blown industry, the bloodline is still very much alive and in use by many Philippine breeders and cockers.
Thanks to the many Filipino breeders, mostly in Negros, who loved the bloodline and stuck with it, through the years.
The birth of the lemons
Lance de la Torre told this writer that in the sixties there was a certain Dr. Javelona who was importing and fighting with success the hulsey fowl.
A bit later, whether inspired by the impressive performances of the hulseys fought by Dr. Javelona, or for any other reason, Don Amado Araneta began sponsoring the campaign of Duke Hulsey here in the Philippines.
At that time derbies were not popular. The big timers then fought in hacks, conciertos and mains. Like many of their contemporaries such as Eddie Araneta and the Rivero brothers of Manila, the Plazas and Chiongbians of Mindanao, Amado Garcia of Davao, The Lacsons of Negros, Nyor Dorong Paulin and Cong. Ed Kintanar of Cebu, and others who fought imported chickens, Don Amado and son George Araneta opted to pin their hope on the imported hulseys.
The Duke brought with him here a number of his fowl. A great majority of these fowl were battle crosses. There were his lemon hackles. There were also some birds with white under hackles. He also had varieties called the cecils and even a line called miss u. And, of course, also his greys.
Perhaps the best performers were the lemon hackles as they became the most popular and a by-word in Philippine cocking. These were his butcher-hatch-claret blend, the ancestors of the Philippine lemons.
Again according to Lance de la Torre, it was Freddie Yulo, then a close associate of Amado Araneta, who was responsible for spreading out the hulsey lemon hackles to the breeders in Negros Occidental. Where and when the hulsey lemon hackles were called the lemons for the first time was not clear. It was believed however, that it was around this time that the name was shortened to lemons.
Was Hulsey’s hatch-claret-butcher blend
a strain or a cross?
American breeder Owen Mcguiness was the man who bred for Duke Hulsey the butcher hatch claret blend that was to become the lemons.
For sure the blend started as a cross, as battle fowl. What was not certain was whether or not it was later set into a strain.
Some accounts, including that of Paeng Araneta himself, had them as a strain, others said they remained a cross.
But not all lemons, brought here by Hulsey were of the same butcher hatch claret blend. The lemon 84, for one, was supposed to be of a different bloodline.
The earlier fowl Hulsey brought in, that was in 1964, were mostly straight combs. They were the roots of the batchoy lemons.
The next big batch came in 1967. They were mostly pea combs, like the 84.
It was possible that Hulsey really had strains out of these blends. But at the same time he was also fighting triple crosses of his hatch, claret and butcher; or whatever other blood was contained in his battle fowl. American breeders at the time were fond of the three-way rotational cross method of breeding.
A rotational three-way cross is done by employing three blood lines. Let’s say at first a hatch and a claret were bred to produce a 2-way hatch-claret blend. Then a butcher cock was thrown into the hatch-claret blend to produce a butcher x hatch-claret triple cross. Subsequently a hatch cock was again thrown in to increase the proportion of the hatch blood. The following year, another claret was mated into the cross, then next year a butcher, so forth and so on.
Breeders who desired to maintain this as a cross and not a set-strain took extra care not to resort to inbreeding by using unrelated hatches, clarets and butchers. However, those who desired otherwise could easily do it by resorting, at some point, to brother-sister mating or back to pa, grandpa or other inbreeding combinations.
Possibly, too, the hulsey blend started as a triple cross, and through subsequent in-breeding, ended up a strain.
However, what Mcguiness and Hulsey did to their stock was their own.
Regardless, the fact was that the Negros breeders who first had the hulsey birds, whether they were inbred animals or not, really went to work and employed their own inbreeding methods for purposes of setting their own strains.
Most of these breeders because they only had battle cocks or the male of the specie, used the back-to-father method of line in-breeding.
What the different breeders had then were brood cocks of the hulsey lemon hackle variety, which, might have been not a breed or strain, but battle crosses that were not even closely related to one another.
It was when these birds came in the hands of responsible breeders, the likes; of Freddie Yulo, Nonoy Jalandoni, Paeng Araneta, Batchoy Alunan, Juancho Aguirre, Bob Cuenca, Tony Trebol, Lance dela Torre, the Maravillas and the Ampils, Joe Laureño, and others that the respective lines of lemons were created — different strains of Philippine lemons.
Whether or not Hulsey really got his lemon as a strain is now immaterial. Hulsey had his hulsey lemon, but, definitely we have got ours. Thanks to Filipino breeders who had put in so many years of frustration, inspiration, effort, and dedication, in order to create the various Philippine lemon strains.
The Negros breeders
The brothers Freddie and Mariano Yulo were among these Negros breeders who helped develop the lemon strains. Moreover, they were the ones credited for bringing to Negros most of the Hulsey cocks then in the hands of the Aranetas in Manila.
The brothers who were close to the Aranetas served as the pipeline of many Negros breeders to the hulsey fowl. They also had their own strain, the Hinigaran lemons, Hinigaran, Negros Occidental being their hometown.
Another of these breeders was the late Mayor Nonoy Jalandoni of La Carlota, Negros Occidental. He created his own lemon strains which he fought, popularized, and later shared with the other members of the La Carlota group- Mayor Juancho Aguirre, Bob Cuenca and Tony Trebol. To these days these three remained top lemon breeders.
Mayor Aguirre confided to Pit Games that today, of the three of them Bob Cuenca possessed the purest of the lemons as Cuenca succeeded up to these days, in maintaining his line with no or just little infusion.
This was a confirmation of a claim by Richard Infante, a long time breeding and conditioning assistant to Bob Cuenca.
During an earlier interview with Pit Games Infante said his boss had, for more than 30 years, succeeded in maintaining the hulsey lemon almost in its original state.
At about the same time that the members of the La Carlota Group of Nonoy Jalandoni were breeding their own lemon strains, or even earlier as some accounts had it, Paeng Araneta and Batchoy Alunan also had their lemons.
Then in 1967, Paeng Araneta who already had acquired some of the Alunan lemons, imported a Duke Hulsey lemon hackled pea combed, yellow legged cock. It was rare as most of Duke’s lemon hackles were straight comb. The cock, which was sporting leg band no. 84 became the founder of the historical lemon 84 line.
The coming of the 84s
In 1972 the 84s stunned the cocking world by winning the international, besting a field composed of all-imported line-ups. The popularity of the lemons in general, and the lemon 84s in particular, spread through out the land. Breeders from outside Negros started breeding the lemons.
One from Manila, Peter Uy, has for more than 30 years now maintained different lines of lemons infused with different imported bloods.
Renown cocker Francis Afable, considered an authority on bloodlines,
said that Uy has succeeded in maintaining different lemon 84 lines infused with Billy Ruble blue face, Harry Lee Strouth butcher, Dad Gleezen whitehackle, and some sweaters, yellow legged hatches, and albanys. According to Afable, these blood lines gave the lemons the much needed shot in the arm.
Another Luzon breeder Tiny Meneses vouched for the blending prowess of the lemon and considered it one of the best base lines.
Meneses once wrote in a local magazine:
“ Lemon is one of the best bloodlines there is to produce good battlecrosses. Lemons are also good even when fought pure. Lemons are smart fowl, sometimes they are at their best when they are at their dullest. They simply kill their opponents very quickly without any fuss. Lemons cross very well.”
The lemons and the sweaters
Sources also told this writer that, at present, there are breeders who are breeding the lemons but are hiding the fact from the public. These breeders, for commercial reasons, prefer to advertise their birds as sweaters or other imported breeds.
It is understandable. They want buyers to believe that their birds are American breeds over which they enjoy exclusive rights, and thus, are not easily accessible. Of course, on the contrary, the lemons are readily available in Negros and other parts of the country.
What they might not have realized is that the sweater which was originated by Harold Brown out of yellow-legged macleans might contain the blood of the hulsey lemon or vice versa.
Francis Afable wrote in Pit Games no. 3:
“. . . this popular strain (sweater) started in the United States inside the breeding farm of Harold Brown. He supposedly got a yellow legged mclean cock from Ted Mclean and bred it over a mclean-leiper hen with substantial success in the mating. After blending them the first year, breeding went back to the dad.”
“These ¾ mcleans made history. Some breeders I talked with were saying that the pea combed, yellow legged and lemon hackled Duke Hulsey lemon popular here is the same strain as Harold Brown’s. The late Robbie White was said to have confirmed this before he died.”
According to the distinguished Negros breeders I talked with, the lemon blends with most blood lines because it is a perfect combination of power in the hatch in it, speed in the claret in it, and cutting ability in the butcher in it.
Bob Cuenca crosses the lemon with hatch-claret to increase power and speed. In effect, Bob Cuenca was just adding more hatch-claret blood in proportion to the butcher blood.
Paeng Araneta blends it with the blue face, adding more hatch, to add gameness and also power to his already quick 84s.
Juancho Aguirre has for years been winning in style with his lemon-cecil greys and lately with lemon sweaters and lemon kelsos.
The Ampils have their own lemon-roundheads, lemon-dan grays, lemon-hatch blends. And, of course, Lance de la Torre has his formidable lemon-boston roundhead crosses.
Joe Laureño, has been doing pretty well with his lemon-dink fair crosses.
Truly, indeed, Lance de la Torre summed it up in so few a words when he said: “In Negros you’re not considered a breeder when you don’t breed the lemon.”
The talents of the Negros breeders
It could be the original hulsey lemons were not a breed but battle crosses that might not be even related to one another. Most likely, the Negros breeders who got them were not breeding seed fowls but battle cocks. It could be only because of the talent of some of these breeders that lemon strains were created.
These breeders created strains out of one individual brood cock. So the different lemon strains may not be related to one another as they are mostly products of line breeding to a single hulsey lemon battle cock. These individual cocks might have come from different families of lemon hackled hulsey fowl.
Definitely, the different lemon strains have different genetic composition as each of the breeders of the lemon strains used different bloodlines in the hen side of the original matings from which they started the line breeding back to the cock.
As examples to illustrate this point Pit Games interviewed the originators of the lemon 84, the lemon guapo, and the main man behind the batchoy lemons.
The lemon 84
According to the personal account of Rafael “Paeng” C. Araneta (RCA) he got a pea comb fowl from Duke Hulsey in the mid sixties with leg band number 84. He bred this cock to his earlier hulsey lemon hens out of stock from his friend, the late Batchoy Alunan.
He then mated the female offspring of this mating back to the father to produce three-quarters of the original lemon 84 cock. The males of this generation, Paeng told this writer, just kept on winning and became so popular. These he called the lemon 84s in reference to the leg band number of the original cock.
From hereon, in almost every generation, he applied both the brother sister mating and the breeding back to the father methods. At some point, some green legged fowl were produced. Thus, he was able to create sub-families of green legged lemons, making the lemon 84 as, perhaps, the only lemon strain that formally has a sub-family of green legged fowl.
The 84’s come in both pea comb and straight comb. The straight combs do not look much different from some of the other lemon strains in Negros. And, according to Paeng, the old 84’s fought similar to the other lemons except that they were much quicker.
At the height of the popularity of the lemon 84 many Negros breeders claimed to have the strain when in fact what they got were lemons of other variety. Paeng, however, admitted to having lent 84’s to Mayor Jalandoni and Tony Trebol. Thus, these two top breeders might have really bred the 84’s in addition to the equally formidable lemon lines they already had. It was also possible that from these two gentlemen the lemon 84 bloodline was spread out to their friends and buyers.
Today the lemon 84 bloodline is very much alive not only in the hands of many breeders all over the country, but also in the farm of Paeng Araneta himself.
Better than ever lemon 84.
“My lemon 84 now is better than ever,” Paeng told this writer. “although, so is the competition,” he added.
When asked why, and what’s the difference between the 84 of the old and the present day 84, Mr. Araneta said:
“ The 84’s had always been quicker compared to the other lemons. Now they are even quicker and they pack more power with the infusion of my blue face hatch blood.”
Later, at RCA’s farm, this writer discovered that the present day 84 is also pretty by lemon standard. Lemons have never been known for being beautiful, but the new 84’s are. And, they are quick and agile, with some power to spare.
Yes, Paeng’s “ Better than Ever” lemon 84’s may have a future as much as they have a past.
The lemon guapo
Another strain of lemon that has been around for more than 30 years is the lemon guapo of Mayor Juancho Aguirre.
According to mayor Juancho in the sixties and the 70s Negros was full of so-called lemon lines. There were the 84, the batchoy, the togo, the massa, and the hinigaran, to name a few. The 84 was Paeng’s creation. Batchoy and massa were name of the breeders who originated these lines, while Hinigaran is the place of Freddie Yulo, who had been the Negrenses’ foremost source of hulsey lemon cocks.
At that time most Negros breeders, including the group of Mayor Juancho, did not have the technical knowledge and support that present day breeders enjoy. For them, it was, almost always a hit and miss affair. Thus, they really had a hard time producing good birds, much less maintain their winning lines.
Indeed, it was the reason, mayor Juancho said, that they sponsored the Duke himself to stay in Negros for a while to teach them the rudiments of breeding and fighting.
Because of this lack of scientific knowledge, coupled with the fact that the breeders also failed to assess accurately the value of these lemons, most of these lines either went to extinction or took the back seat.
The 84s and the batchoys are still around. The massa and togo are no longer heard of. The hinigaran has reincarnated as the Guapo line.
Here is the story:
At about the time, Paeng’s 84s were making waves, disaster hit mayor Aguirre’s stock. Avian pest wiped out his flock. Among, the very few survivors were a lemon brood cock and a baby stag that was suffering from a limber neck as result of barely surviving the epidemic.
Discouraged and decided to take a leave from breeding, the mayor gave the brood cock to his brother-in-law Bob Cuenca who had a lot of the same lemon strain- the hinigaran variety.
Mayor Juancho also gave the surviving limber necked hinigaran lemon baby stag to a kumpadre who peddled chickens.
After a year, the mayor casually asked his kumpadre about the limber necked stag. To his surprise, the limber neck was not only fine but indeed was a very beautiful specimen of a cock.
They started calling it guapo. After a while they fought guapo. It won four fights practically unscathed. On its fifth win guapo was badly wounded.
Mayor Juancho, whose interest in breeding had been slowly revived, decided to breed guapo. He bred the erstwhile limber neck to some cecil hens and some hatch hens.
He kept breeding the best pullets back to guapo, at the same time employ some brother-to-sister matings, until he was able to set the strain he called lemon guapo.
“I continued to play around with many inbreeding variations of the guapo line, always keeping in mind absolute quality control,” Mayor Aguirre told this writer.
Eventually the line with the infusion of the cecil blood was discontinued because according to him the cecils tend to produce oversized offspring. (The cecils referred to were not of Cecil Davies bloodline but a line of Duke Hulsey which Duke called as such. They were reds with white under hackles.)
The malatuba family of the guapo
After almost forty years of playing around with the guapo bloodline, suddenly a bunch of the present day guapos came out malatuba or pumpkin in plumage.
These pumpkins are direct decendants to a guapo lemon that had just recently died but not before reaching the age of nine. According to mayor juancho, this particular cock became a hennie or binabaye after its last moult.
He consulted veterinarians on the phenomenon. All they could say was that it could be a result of altered hormone balance as brood cocks were normally pumped with hormones to induce fertility.
How about the bunch of pumpkin guapos? They could not be result of hormone imbalance. They could only be throwbacks.
The pumpkins came out of a likewise pumpkin cock that is son to the old lemon-turned- binabaye brood cock. This pumpkin lemon broodcock could be a case of “throwback beyond the original.”
The original hulsey cocks brought to the country in the sixties were not malatuba. The throw back must be way way back to their earlier predecessors. Perhaps, somewhere along the line long before the hatch-claret-butcher lines were blended by Duke Hulsey, any one or more of the said bloodlines carried some pumpkin genes. I suspect it must have been the clarets.
According to the History of Game Strains (Johnson and Holcomb) in 1927, a Duryea cock which was thrown in to contribute to the development of the claret bloodline, produced many wonderful pumpkin cocks.
This could be the reason why Juancho’s lemon guapo is now producing pumpkin throwbacks. And, their fighting styles? Well, JGA’s pumpkin lemon guapos are the most powerful lemons I’ve seen. And, they still fight like lemons should—smart and quick.
Joe Laureño and the batchoys.
The batchoy lemons were among the first lemon lines that made it to the big time. They were straight combed, lemon hackled low stationed cocks and originated by the late Batchoy Alunan. Unknown to many then, there was one other man behind the success of the batchoys—Joe Laureño, Mr Alunan’s trusted chickenman.
Batchoy Alunan died in 1980. Now 25 years after, the batchoys, in their original state, are very much alive in the farm of Joe Laureño.
Joe had been associated with Batchoy from 1968 to the latter’s death in 1980. As a parting gift from the family, he was made to settle for some fowl instead of cash. From then on, the burden of preserving the batchoy lines fell upon Joe’s shoulder.
According to Joe, he got 2 broodcocks and 13 hens. Out of these, he had managed to reconstruct the batchoy bloodlines.
Joe told Pit games that there were actually three kinds of lemon in the batchoy yards. There was the 84, the left ins and the line that was called the batchoys. Of course there were also other bloodlines such as the equally formidable batchoy greys.
The line called batchoy is low stationed and very barako. This particular batchoys were tough and they fought like hatches. The left ins were beautiful and were the smart ones. The blend of the two lines gave them numerous successes then, along with Francis de Borja and Jesse Cabalza, who were foremost chicken fighters of the time.
The 84s really came from the original 84 cock. The original 84 cock was with Batchoy Alunan for a while and Joe bred it to some of their own lemons.
With just the 2 cocks and 13 hens, Joe did not only manage to restore the batchoys, he was also able to discover blends that made his lemons comparable to the best of the best bloodlines of today.
How did he do it?
Joe did it with the time-honored method of back crossing to the purer parent, and other forms of in-breeding. Of course, he also resorted to the inevitable infusion of new blood at some point. New bloods that were eventually slowly bred out in order to once again purify the lemon blood.
He has fought them crossed with several different bloodlines with same success-- in the bakbakan, in the world slasher, and in many great gathering of great feathered warriors.
As most of us know, Joe is very active in the big times nowadays. He is now among the country’s big boys. Joe and his son Johnny have won the prestigious Balbina Breeders Cup twice already.
The entry JVL is always in the thick of the big fights. Where and when the best chickens of the land see action, Mang Joe and his fowl are there to reckon with.
In his very beautiful farm that this writer visited, there was an array of imported dink fairs sweaters, yellow legged hatches, Roger Robert’s hatchets, mcleans and other hatches. Yes, there were some two thousand beauties on cord. Amid these jewels, still were the batchoy lemons of the old. Not so beautiful, but so precious.
Lance: In negros you are not a breeder
if you have got no lemons
Inasmuch as you cannot start a story about the lemons without mentioning Paeng Araneta, certainly, you could not end it without reference to Lance de la Torre.
Lance, the big boy who rose from the ranks. The former policeman who resigned from service to pursue a much greater love of his—cockfighting.
He went to Manila to condition, handle and tie the knife on the chickens of prominent cockers.
In due time, he proved his worth.
He found a partner and he was suddenly into breeding, and, became a world slasher champion, the first to score 8 straight wins in the wsc.
Lance’s lemons are of the Nonoy Jalandoni and Nene Velez variety. Not much different from those of Juancho Aguirre and the rest of the La Carlota group. His lemons are probably the most expensive around, but like the Rolls Royce, they are worth every penny, even more.
His lemons blend well with his roundheads, and with most of his other lines. Straight combed, and medium stationed, they come with some shades of malatuba in the breast. They look like the old time lemons but they pack more wallop and are quicker than most. They are really a wonder to behold.
When I was in Lance’s farm, in Talisay, Negros Occ., I was treated to a long sparring session. The lemons were sparred along side his newly acquired bloodlines such as the much sought after Jr. Belt Cowan roundhead, as well as his old reliables such as his boston and his regular roundheads. There were also his hatches and his greys, the lance greys that sold for more than a hundred grand a trio.
Against this formidable array of distinguished bloodlines, Lance’s lemons held their own.
The master breeder in lance has somehow managed to infuse the much needed booster to enable his lemons fight as fit for the modern times.
His lemons are intelligent, quick and powerful. Considering Lance’s obsession with gameness, we can be rest assured too that his lemons are more than fairly game.
Lance, the man who said that: “you are not a breeder if you don’t have the lemon,” also admitted to this writer: “I am not an all out lemon fanatic, I know the limitations of the lemons but I know its blending value too.”
The lemons’ attributes and records
Known for its brainy fighting style, accurate cutting ability and excellent timing, the lemon is, without doubt, one of the great bloodlines in the history of cockfighting.
After forty years of remarkable presence in the Philippine cocking scene, the lemons have definitely passed the test of time, and with flying colors.
Despite the advent of the so-called modern yellow legged and green legged hatches, the super kelsos, the magnum and bonecrusher hatches, the numerous variations of the old time roundheads, and other newly created or revitalized old strains, the lemons are still sought after by top notch breeders who know of the lemons’ value.
The lemons first caught the attention of the international cocking community in 1972. That year the lemon 84s of Paeng Araneta won the international derby. The 84s were the only local breed entered in that grand event.
Another high point of the lemons came in 1997 when Lance de la Torre, in tandem with Patrick Antonio, won solo that year’s edition of the World Slasher Cup II. Lance de la Torre unveiled to the world the might and ring savvy of his lemon-roundhead crosses to score 8 straight victories. It was then an unprecedented feat.
Prior to that no one had ever scored 8 straight wins in the WSC. The record was eventually tied 7 years later by Rudy Salud and Lito Orillaza who copped the 2004 edition of world slasher cup I. Salud and Orillaza showed cocks coming from bloodlines of another Negros stalwart, Danilo Hinlo.
In year 2000, Bob Cuenca, a member of the La Carlota, Negros lemon group, likewise in tandem with Patrick Antonio, won a share of that year’s January edition of the world slasher.
That same year, Peping Ricafort scored a grand slam. He emerged co-champion in both the January and June editions of the world slasher cup. Ricafort later divulged in a magazine interview that he always made it a point that all cocks he bred have drops of the lemon 84 blood which he got directly from the originator Paeng Araneta.
In January 2001, Tony Trebol, another member of the La Carlota lemon group won another WSC title.
These series of major achievements by the lemons were no easy feats considering they came in the wake of perennial challenges from the sweaters of Carol Nesmith, Bruce Barnette, and Dink Fair, the Roger Roberts hatchets; and the birds of Johnny Jumper, Ray Alexander, and those of many other American and local breeders.
Brainy and quick
The lemons are medium to low station. They fight smart, cut well and have excellent timing. They come in plumage from red with lemon hackles to downright lemon like color. They come either in straight or pea combs, but mostly straight combs, except for the 84s which are basically pea combs. More than ninety percent of the lemons come in yellow legs. A few are green legged. Fewer still are white legged. They are not as beautiful as, say, the sweaters, but the lemons have a bearing of the royalty and confidence of a champion. The lemons exude an aura, so to say.
In the pit, they keep their cool under extreme pressure. Under attack, the lemon extricate itself by either gracefully side stepping or topping the opponent. When attacking, the lemon does not resort to fancy shuffles and multiple cutting. It simply hits with fatal single strokes.
The lemon may not look so fast in its movements but, in reality, it is quick to the draw and extremely accurate. There is rhythm to its blows that draws the opponent to its beat, and poetry in its motions that baffles the opponent into lowering its guards.
The lemons are patient and brainy. They are what is called “abang” in Tagalog and “kumpas” in Bisaya. They wait for the opponent to make the first move. They seem to know that, more often than not, the first move is a mistake.
Then the lemons are vertical flyers. When the other cock strikes the lemon goes up vertically to top the opponent, and not diagonally as most cocks do.
This is geometry and physics in action. When two birds go up together in the air vertically, the point of contact is prolonged and gravity more centered that when one of the birds breaks diagonally forward. Thus, breaking vertically, the bird on top will have more time to inflict damage; whereas, in a diagonal flight the inertia of the forward blow will likely prevent the blade from going deeper into the flesh.
On the ground, when evading blows, the lemon side steps or back pedals instead of ducking. And, it counters accurately. According to Mayor Juancho Aguirre, to him the ultimate maneuver of a cock is back pedaling at the same time “nagiiwan ng paa” or counter striking effectively. “The lemon can do it, can do it in style,” he said.
Also the lemons are not bill holders. They strike with their feet not with their beaks. They have this staccato type of blows that seem to always beat the opponent to the draw. In breeding, too, the lemon blends well with almost any other bloodline.
The Philippine lemons have a colorful past, and a solid present. What about the future stored for them?
The lemons should still be around for the years to come. Efforts by our best breeders to preserve the line, improve on them, and correct the weaknesses will guarantee that the lemons are here to stay for several decades more.
The lemon’s main drawbacks are the lack of station and power. Its gameness, according to some is also a suspect. But this has been disputed by others who swore that there are dead game lemons as well.
With the infusion of other bloodlines, and the respective breeders ability to perceive and foresee, these problems have been corrected.
The lemon guapo of mayor Juancho is an example of a new generation lemons. Lance’s lemons are comparable to, if not better than, most of the modern day sweaters, kelsos, and roundheads.
Also, there abound all over the country, new breeders that are out to continue breeding, improving and propagating the lemons.
Morover, the lemons have continued to prove their blending worth. A look at the winning crosses in the big fights nowadays will show the high percentage of fowl with lemon blood. The JVL dink-lemon crosses are example of these winning fowl, as well, as those of Dicky Lim’s and the Julao Bros.
Yes, the great Duke Hulsey brought his lemons to the Philippines, but the Filipino breeders, were the ones who created the lemons of today – The Philippine Lemons.
( In search of the legend that is the Philippine lemon, the writer, of this article, Rey Bajenting, made several trips to Negros and visited the farms of the breeders behind the lemons .
He is a genuine lemon lover. He and his partner Steve Sarmago,
in coordination with Mark Aguirre have embarked on a lemon project.
They are infusing and injecting into the lemons modern bloodlines such as dink and bruce sweaters, Johnny Jumper, Sam Caudle and Bobby Fairchild kelsos, Boston and Dan Gray roundheads; Gilmore and blue face hatches, and the Aguirre greys to determine with what lines does the lemon blend best, and produce their own Sugbo lemon blends.
Over these bloodlines they are putting two kinds of lemons—the better than ever 84 and the malatuba guapo.
GAMECOCKS AND GENTLEMEN MEET IN DIXIE
Some 600 cockfighting fanciers from all over the U.S. packed a pit in a southern town last week to watch the 'World Series of Long Heel Competition'
Robert H. Boyle
In the southeastern U.S. last week millions of people watched or talked about the first spring baseball exhibitions, but elsewhere in Dixie some 600 of their fellow citizens were preoccupied with a far more unusual sporting spectacle. They were eager witnesses to the' 'World Series of Long Heel Competition," the top event of its kind in cockfighting.
The World Series took place in a converted green barn on a private estate outside a southern town. Delicacy and the law forbid closer identification of the locale. Ordinarily, the local fathers are very tolerant, as they are in many rural areas where death in the barnyard is a common occurrence. Recently, however, a nearby pit was raided for running on the Sabbath, and the promoter of the World Series, a courtly cocker known as Eddie Fulldrop, feared naming the town would prompt a raid on him.
Cockfighting is legal in only three states—Florida, Kansas and New Mexico—but it goes on in almost all. Devotees number more than 100,000, and they range from the poorest Alabama farmhand to the Wall Street broker who belongs to the superexclusive, supersecret Claymore Club, restricted to only nine members. Nowhere are cocks as good as they are in this country. Each year professional breeders export 12,000 birds to the West Indies, Latin America and the Philippines, and business is brisk enough to support four monthly magazines, Grit and Steel, The Gamecock, The Feathered Warrior and Game Fowl News. Advertisements, reports of fights and memoirs of gallant days gone past cram the pages. Cockers are a sentimental lot who put much by tradition. The cover of the December issue of Game Fowl News bore a photograph of a cr che with the admonition, "Keep Christ in Christmas."Cockers are also proudly patriotic. "The most peaceful nations on earth are devoted to cockfighting," Mr. Fulldrop wrote a few weeks before the Series, "and those that aren't are the worst warmongers. Russia wouldn't know a fighting cock from a Leghorn, and there is no cockfighting in Germany, and those have been the worst troublemakers on earth. In England at one time cockfighting pushed horse racing back to second place. Since 1849 cockfighting there has been killed almost entirely. And what happened to England? It's been going downhill ever since! Mexico and all of Latin America are cockers, and with few exceptions have been quite peaceable. France and Belgium were devoted to the game in a small way and have never been bad nations. India too is something of a cockfighting nation. Italy is another nation that doesn't fight cocks, although they did back in Roman days and have been slipping ever since. Spain is another cockfighting nation and rather peaceable except for the revolutionaries who pop up."
Raising cocks for an event like the Series requires money and land. A cocker can invest thousands crossing strains and end up with "dunghills," the term cockers use to describe quitters or ordinary poultry. At an early age a cock's comb and wattles are "dubbed" (cut), so an opposing bird can't grasp them with his beak. Until a bird is a year old he is known as a stag, and he may be fought even then. (The Claymore Club's annual tournament in the late spring, which is by invitation only, is for stags.)
The cockfighting season runs from late November to early June. The birds molt in the summer and fall. When not fighting, a cock is put on a "walk," which generally means a farm with free range, with some hens. There is only one cock to a walk since two would fight until one was killed. Some owners who fought in the Series had cocks scattered on farms running for hundreds of miles over two or three states.Last month the owners gathered their cocks for training. They reduced the birds to fighting weight and toughened them with conditioning exercises. They had the cocks spar with traditional small muffs on their spurs (from this came the idea for boxing gloves). In the Series the cocks wear "gaffs," steel spurs rounded on the edges and pointed at the ends. In the East gaffs are an inch and a quarter long. In the South they go up to two and three-quarter inches. Hence the "long heel" appellation.
The Series drew 17 owners, who paid a fee of $500 apiece. Each was to fight 12 cocks, weighing between four pounds eight ounces and six pounds two. Every bird fought had to weigh within two ounces of his opponent, and the fights stretched over a three-day period, starting with the lightweight cocks and ending with the heavyweights. Most of the cocks had fought before; a fine cock is good for three, maybe four fights.
At 11 o'clock Thursday morning the grounds around the barn were aswarm with people. Several hundred cars with license plates from 30 states were parked on the grass and down a dirt road. Some fans had come from as far away as Guatemala, Mexico, Canada and Hawaii.
To get in, one passed through the door of a shed built onto the barn. Immediately inside was Mr. Full-drop's daughter, an attractive girl, selling tickets for $5 each. Mrs. Full-drop, a jolly grandmotherly woman, was near by, greeting old friends with a smile. On the right was a refreshment stand where local ladies served sandwiches, soft drinks, milk and layer cake. In the center were a dozen tables for diners, and on the left a drag pit where cocks that took too much time in the main arena would finish their matches.
Two doors at the far end of the shed led to the big pit. At either one attendants took admission tickets and stapled pink slips with a printed "T" (for Thursday) on shirt fronts. The pit, measuring 20 by 20, was sunk in the floor. White lines known as "scores" were chalked on the tan-bark eight feet apart. On all four sides tiers of seats rose to the rafters. About 500 persons were present, 30 or 40 of them jammed into the pit "talking chicken." There were Texans in cowboy hats and boots. (Dick Kleberg of the King Ranch family dropped dead in town the day he was to fight his cocks in the Series a few years ago.) There were a scattering of women dressed as if for a church social, the owner of a bordello, a surgeon, an auto salesman from Michigan, an elderly nightclub owner from El Paso and a Catholic priest in mufti. ("I want to see what it's like," he told Mr. Fulldrop. "Go ahead, Father," said Mr. Fulldrop, a Catholic, giving him a pass.)
Several representatives of the trade press were present, among them dapper Dave Marburger, who used to work for King Features Syndicate and now edits The Gamecock, and affable William Courtney White Jr., columnist for Grit and Steel, who drives 90,000 miles a year covering fights. "Suh," said White, "should you evah happen to be in Ware Shoals, South Carolina, Ah would be honored if you would stay with me."
The competing cockers ranged from young Bobby Joe Manziel from Texas, whose late father, a onetime boxer who made $60 million in oil, brought Jack Dempsey to see the Series, to graying Duke Hulsey from Louisiana, dressed in khaki to handle his own birds.
The public address announcer called the first fight. It was between entries 2 and 12. (Entries were numbered for anonymity before the matches were made so there could be no charge of favoritism.) No. 2 was Harold Brown of the Blackwell and Brown entry from Alabama. He entered the pit carrying his bird, a Hatch claret. Twelve was Eight Pines of Mississippi. The Eight Pines handler brought in a gray cock.
A babble of betting arose. The most common cry was, "100 and 80!" That meant that the man who was calling out 100 and 80 was willing to bet $100 against $80. When another man agreed to bet $80, the man who bet the $100 picked the cock he wanted to back. The $80 bettor took the other one. The big bettors, who have been known to go as high as $10,000 on a fight, spoke to one another quietly.
The two handlers, each carrying his bird, met with the referee in the center of the pit. The handlers held the cocks out at arm's length and let them peck at one another to arouse their ire. This is called "billing." The handlers, still carrying the cocks, then retreated to the score lines, where they swung the cocks forward at one another in a graceful arc—and as the referee shouted "Pit!" set the birds on the scores, facing each other. The cocks, wings beating, feathers ruffling, met in a furious burst in mid-pit. The claret sank his gaffs deeply into the gray, so deeply in fact that he "hung," unable to disengage. The referee shouted "Handle!" and the two handlers quickly seized the birds and separated them. "You got to handle when they're hung," said White. The handlers took the cocks back to the scores for 10 seconds rest. The odds shifted to 100 to 60 on the claret.
The cocks were pitted again, and the claret rushed out to riddle the gray. They hung again, and the handlers darted in. They were pitted a third time, and they hung again. The cocks for the second fight were ready, and the claret and gray went to the drag pit.
When the claret won, the bettors settled up with one another. No one had written anything down, and no one held stakes. A cocker's word is his honor. Everyone present was presumed to be a lady or a gentleman, and general behavior was exemplary, with no swearing, no drinking and no arguments.
"There's fellowship and sportsmanlike conduct," said White. "This is a place where a man can take his son and not have him exposed to the swearin' and the drinkin' he'd see at a baseball game. It's a sport, that's what this is!" White allowed that a memorial derby for Sweater McGinnis was coming up soon in Florida. Sweater, a famed handler, died a year ago, leaving a wife and children. The proceeds of the derby are to go for the education of Sweater's children. "No matter what a cocker's station, we're all equal here," Mr. Fulldrop had remarked earlier.
Fight followed fight, and sometimes the outcome varied. Frank Cutsinger of Oklahoma fought a gray against a Duke Hulsey claret. The gray quickly downed the claret, and the referee counted to 10 as the bird lay on the tanbark. Twice more the pair was pitted, and each time the referee tolled 10 over the inert claret: The referee then marked two new score lines on the tanbark 22 inches apart. The gray flew at the claret, and this time the referee counted to 20 for the knockout. Mr. Fulldrop, above the crowd on a catwalk, noted the result on the scoreboard.
At 3 o'clock intermission came. Mr. Fulldrop came down from his perch to mingle with the crowd. "It's just natural for them to fight," he said of the cocks. "They'd rather fight than eat. It's just instinct."
The cocks are all descended from Gallus gallus, a breed of Asian jungle fowl brought to Greece by the Persians in ancient times. Before the Athenians defeated the Persians at Salamis, Themistocles used two fighting cocks to exhort his men: "Behold, these do not fight for their household gods, for the monuments of their ancestors, for glory, for liberty, or the safety of their children, but because one will not give way to the other."
The Romans introduced the birds into Britain. Henry VIII built the first pit in London, and under the Stuarts the sport flourished. James I attended fights twice a week and appointed a royal cockmaster. Charles II presented a pair of spurs to Nell Gwyn. The greatest cocker of all was the Earl of Derby, after whom the race is named. At one time he supposedly had 3,000 cocks on walks. ("He fought mains all over the country," a writer recently noted in the Game Fowl News, "but perhaps his favorite spot was Preston, where he had built the best appointed and most commodious cockpit in the kingdom. I hear that it is now a temperance hall. This is bad enough, but other cockpits have had a sadder fate, they have become chapels.")
George Washington fought cocks, and so did Jefferson and Jackson. Franklin Roosevelt attended fights. "This was before his political days, when he was at home in Hyde Park," Mr. Fulldrop said. "The late General Marshall was interested in the game at one time." Bernard Baruch used to attend fights with the late Sanford Hatch, a New York investment broker, who ranks, along with Colonel John Madigin, a shiny blade from Buffalo, as the greatest American breeder. "Practically all the cocks here have Hatch or Madigin blood." Mr. Fulldrop said, before returning to the scoreboard.
On Saturday, when all the cocks had finished fighting, three entries—the Jackson Club of Jackson, Tenn., Bill Ruble of Ohio and Lloyd Miner and Son from Illinois and California—had tied for first-place money with nine wins and three defeats each. They split the total $8,500 in entry fees.
Everyone was delighted. The birds had been tough and the competition keen. "The best we ever had," said Mr. Fulldrop. "That was a very unusual happening in young Miner winning. Hauled those chickens 2,000 miles from California and wins! You wouldn't see that but once in a thousand times—travel usually takes a lot out of chickens."
And what of the cocks themselves? The winners went back home in triumph to be fought again, perhaps, or bred to pass on the blood and bone of victory. Some gallant losers which lived went home, too—they might have had bad luck. Cocks that were killed or badly wounded had their heads chopped off, and each day they lay outside the barn on the grass, waiting for the garbage collector, who made special calls. A few fishermen in the crowd slashed off hackle feathers for flies.
The dead cocks occasioned much emotion. "I've tried to eat 'em," snuffled Earl Myers, an elderly gentleman from up Indiana way who had just come to watch, "but I just couldn't eat a bite. Just too much sentiment. I choked up. I don't even like to see 'em killed. Just like tryin' to eat one of your own kids."