Jeff said, "If i let you loose in a room with that rooster, he'd go right after your leg."

I pondered that for a moment. i weigh about 240 (220 kilos) and i bend steel pipe for a living. But the lowliest pre-teen is way, way out of the weight class of even the most testosterone-soaked chicken. You'd expect any creature under ten pounds to run like hell whenever the top of the food chain enters the room. "What if I kicked him across the room?"

Jeff laughed. "He'd come right back at you."

Roosters are chickens. That means they're inhabit a tiny subset of vertebrates who sometimes manage to keep walking after they've had their head chopped off. This means they ain't too bright. And they're mean. Really mean, because they feel some primal need to control the henhouse and anything that might get between them and some hen hottie deserves to die. They've got to be the meanest, most stubborn herbivores on Earth. They're stupid enough to attack a species that regards them as food. They're mean enough to want to kill anything nearby. And they're stubborn enough to keep on the attack after they'be been really badly hurt. Bugging out doesn't seem to occur much to these fowl beasts, even when they're right about to be killed. They usually fight to the death.

This utter meanness, and the fact that chickens are farm animals has led to the practice of cock fighting, a rather barbaric practice that is common in many rural areas of the United States. Cock fighting is a felony in all states except Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico. Which doesn't stop it, even here in Ohio.

Cock fighting is very old, and was practiced in ancient Persia, China, India, and later into Greece and Rome. It has alwasys been controversial, and many attempts to ban it have been made. Still it persists. The 'sport' probably evolved from simple economic circumstance. Hens lay eggs, and generally get along with each other, which means hens are a lot more valuable than roosters. One rooster is all that's required, and given the natural propensity of roosters to fight, one is probably all that any farmer might want, given the desire for a peaceful barnyard. And some meat on the table.

That made for a rooster surplus on many farms. And boys will be boys. One way to kill boredom is to drop a few of the surplus fowl into a pen and let them fight it out. Side bets naturally would follow. The loser would end up battered, fried and served with mashed potatoes. Farm boys ended up with entertainment and dinner all in one not-so-tidy package.

That's how it probably started. But some time ago things turned deadly. Today, fighting roosters are bred, with the biggest and meanest carefully raised. Their natural spurs are removed, probably to make them safer to handle. That didn't make the fighting less deadly. They strap knives called gaffs to the rooster's taloned feet, just to speed matters along a bit. I haven't seen them in person, but i've seen the catalog. Imagine a strap-on boning knife, available in different sizes and shapes. Most gaffs are around three inches long. Sometimes the birds are fed drugs to hype them up.

The birds are also carefully trimmed, raised and there is an 'art' to attaching the gaffs, which is referred to as 'heeling'. Their combs are trimmed short to reduce vulnerability to beaks. The birds are fed a careful diet, and a steady exercise regime to prepare them for the ring.

Cock fights are generally clandestine, with a simple meeting in someone's barn. Place your bets, drop two armed roosters into a pen, and watch them go until one or both is dead. The lure is gambling, with big money involved. Jeff raised birds until his arrest. Once he took home $20K in a single evening. A very nice payday for a chicken farmer. And they are bloody, with both losers and winners cut to ribbons. The bloodiness and the fact that cock fighting is practiced only by a country minority probably accounts for the illegality.

Attempts to ban cockfighting are almost as old as the activity itself. Today even those who think PETA and other animal right activists loony generally find cock fighting repulsive. But you can bet that somewhere in the hills, there's two roosters slashing each other up even now.