Animal fighting sports are a human entertainment usually associated with gambling on the outcome of a fight to the death between two or more animals. Fights may consist of a snake versus a mongoose (in Asia), a dog versus a dozen large rats (in Europe), a bear versus several dogs (in Pakistan), any single captured wild animal against a pack of dogs (in the Americas), or a man versus a bull (in Hispanic countries). However, because in such matches there is a natural disadvantage on one side, more sport is considered to exist in pitting a pair or more of specimens from the same species against each other. This is reflected in animal racing where camels, horses, elephants, dogs and many other species are placed in contest among their own kind. Its cruel version is in the fight to the death or near-death, with cockfighting and dogfighting among the best known examples. Frequently a pit is employed from which the animals cannot escape and they may be repeatedly struck or prodded to madden them. Cockfighting is known on at least three continents and the birds are usually specially bred. In the fight the cocks wear metal leg spikes long enough to fatally puncture the bodies of their opponents. Breeders may also service the frequently illegal dogfighting market and different species are preferred in different countries. In the UK and the USA, for example, it may be the small but powerful pit bull terrier.
Dog fighting can be traced to the Middle Ages, when blood lust and large amounts of money were its main attractions. Today's dogs - usually American pit bull terriers - are specially trained, from the start, to recognize the flesh of other dogs as food and their blood as drink. This is encouraged by days of starvation, after which they are placed in a cage with a weakened animal (the other animal is bleeding from razor slashes); during their training, the fighting dogs' endurance is built up by placing them on specially designed treadmills with live kittens or freshly slaughtered meat hanging in front of them.
In the USA and particularly in the UK, dog fighting is an illegal - though much practised - "country" sport sometimes involving large amounts of money (up to $50,000) and secrecy. Fights take place in obscure settings (anywhere from lone country barns or woods to boats and the empty swimming pools of country estates) and in the UK, a video film of a dog fight was recently sold to those who wanted to participate, but from the safety of their own homes.
As in other forms of cruelty to animals, animal fighting sports serve as schools in cruelty, educating human beings towards a desensitivity to suffering, both animal and human. Psychologists in America have observed that children brought to animal fights can experience serious emotional effects from the experience. In addition, due to the large financial stakes and the illegal status of most animal fighting sports (dogfighting is illegal in the UK and the USA; four states in the USA still recognize cockfighting as legal), the Mafia has become associated with it, thus giving organized crime another milieu in which it can profit.