Blood sports

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Blood sports are games or entertainment that draw animals’ blood (lohita), either by injuring or killing them. They can involve animals of the same or different species, either fighting each other, or fighting a human being, or being hunted. Cockfighting, bear bating, fox hunting and falconry would be examples of the first of these, while bull fighting would be an example of the second. The enjoyment of blood sports is derived partly from gambling on the combatants and partly from testing one’s skill or courage against the animal. For some people at least, a perverse glee in inflicting or watching pain being inflicted may also part of the attraction of these activities.

Some of the blood sports popular during the Buddha’s time and mentioned in the Tipiṭaka included elephant, buffalo, bull, ram, cock and quail fights. Fighting quails may sound rather curious but male quails are very pugnacious birds and fight furiously when they encounter each other. It seems likely that at least many of these fights did not involve the animals being killed. For ordinary people, the most common blood sport was cockfighting (kukkuṭa yuddha) which seem to have been a feature of fairs and village gatherings. The Kārma Sūtra mentions the rules of cockfighting. In their natural state cocks do not kill each other. Only when sharp metal spikes are attached to their spurs does this happen. This appears not to have been done in ancient India.

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