Some fun history today!
Originally posted October 2020
I am sick of politics! The political junkie has had it. Felt the need for a day off.
The sole topic today will be a history of cockfighting. A bit like politics. Both roosters going at each others throats to bloody the other.
Cockfighting is the sport of ancients, Presidents and common man. Though illegal, it is still considered a sport.
Roosters are trained to be killers, to hate other roosters. Their natural spurs are altered by adding on razor shop metal ones. The roosters are then ready to fight to the death.
Cockfighting is referred to as a blood sport because of the preceding.
Cockfighting had it’s beginnings sometime around 400-500 B.C. It was considered a sport.
The Chinese, Persians and Greeks were the first. Rooster owners were considered sportsmen and trainers. Much like horse owners and their trainers of today.
Spectators involved. They paid an entry fee to watch the fight and gamble on its outcome.
Three Presidents participated in and enjoyed the sport. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.
Over the centuries, the sport became illegal. Primarily in the 20th century. All States ban cockfighting.
In 2007, George W. Bush signed a federal law banning cockfighting.
Both State and Federal law carry severe jail time.
Two reasons are put forth as to why cockfighting is philosophically illegal. First, it is gambling. Second, animal cruelty.
Key West and the lower Keys historically have been a home to the sport.
Roosters and chickens today walk around freely.
During the 1800’s, chickens became big business in Cuba. Breeders purchased varieties of Filipino Fowl from Spain. The Cubans created their own breed called Cubalayo. Their size and aggressiveness made them perfect for cockfighting.
In 1860, the Ten Years’ War began in Cuba. Cuba’s fight for freedom. Many Cubans moved to the United States. They brought their love of cockfighting with them.
Then came the cigar industry. Its success in Key West brought more Cubans and cockfighting chickens.
When Cubans migrated to Key West, an insufficient food supply existed. There was no U.S. 1 or railroad. Ergo, the Cubans also brought chickens for human consumption.
The chickens provided eggs and meat. They reproduced easily. Roosters and chickens are very prolific. The gestation period 29 days.
As Key West became more connected with the rest of the world and with the advent of local markets and supermarkets carrying chicken products, there was no need to raise chickens for food.
Most people stopped raising chickens. They freed them to wander wherever.
The chickens learned quickly how to survive on their own. They ate native insects, lizards, scorpions and worms.
Many believe the roaming chickens have also provided a benefit to the community. It is claimed they have minimized Key West’s cockroach population.
Key West outlawed cockfighting in the 1970’s. Cubalayo chickens were no longer of value. Most owners put the Cubalayos on the street to fend for themselves.
Roosters and chickens roamed freely. Nature took its course. Sex abounded. A chicken’s gestation time is 29 days. It did not take long for Key West to have chickens galore.
The marriage of the food chickens with Cubalayp ones resulted in what today are known as Gypsy chickens. The Gypsys are the ones running around Key West today.
Gypsys are a protected species.
The outlawing of cockfights has not eliminated the sport. Merely minimized it. There are still those who like to breed and train. Others who enjoy making money sponsoring cockfights. And those who enjoy watching and gambling as to the outcome of a fight.
Cockfights therefore do exist. Generally outside of Key West. In mangroves and other isolated places.
In 2017, a drug raid in Ramrod Key discovered 250 cockfighting chickens and fighting paraphernalia. The owners/operators of the cocks and fighting paraphernalia were arrested.
For some reason, present day cockfighting appears to be moving out of the Keys to mid Florida. In 2019, a raid took place in Summerland, Florida. Summerland being in Marian County. Fifty roosters were discovered.
The only place in Key West that I am aware of that had regular cock fights was the Gato House at 1209 Virginia Street. I could not ascertain the time frame. I doubt it could have been when the Gato family was residing there.
Gato moved out. Donated the house for a hospital. He had one condition. The hospital had to be named after his wife Mercedes. The Mercedes Hospital came into being.
The Mercedes Hospital closed down around 1942. It was vacant for a while. Then it was purchased and turned into a guest house. Today an apartment building.
The Gato House is the place where Key West’s most famous ghost resides. The hospital’s matron Maria Valdez de Gutsens. It is claimed she still walks the rooms and hallways of the Gato House.
The Gato House has a backyard. It was also constructed in such fashion as to have a center court. The cockfights probably occurred after the hospital closed. During the years the building was run down and overgrown with weeds.
Hope you enjoyed.
Have a nice day!