The raising and fighting of cockerels is a intricate part of Thai culture and a lucrative business as well. Families in impoverished regions, such as Isaan, breed gamecocks to sell; a well conditioned cockerel can go for up to one million Baht (US$30,000). On average chickens will sell for 10,000 Baht ($300) — more than one month’s salary in Thailand.

Despite what many may view as animal cruelty, Thai’s love their fighting chickens. They are given daily massage, herbal compress, sponge baths, and fed drops of wild honey. The chickens are treated like family and have a covered area to sleep. Thais do not use metal spurs and fights are never to the death; weigh-ins are also required. Matches often end in a draw if neither cockerel retreats. If an owner feels his cockerel is mismatched, he will physically jump in to stop the fight.

New York based photographer Robert P Cohen visited one of these villages and was able to photograph a sparring session.

Cock Fighting, Robert P Cohen, Photography

Robert Paul Cohen was born in Smithtown, New York. He received a Bachelor’s of Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University in 1998 and later started taking classes at The International Center of Photography. There he studied with portrait photographers Shelby Lee Adams, Amy Arbus and Andrea Modica. A campaign he created for The Red Cross and American Association of Blood Banks is in the permanent collection at The Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Robert is currently living in NYC, though travels now and then to LA and South East Asia. You can view more of his work one his website.

About The Author

Frances Watthanaya

After receiving a Muay Thai scholarship to train at a prominent gym in Northern Thailand, Watthanaya packed her bags at 19 and left home with a one way ticket. She ended up at a Bangkok street gym affiliated with Sor. Thanikul and married one of the fighters. They took off up country and Watthanaya fought her way through Issan. Now, with a degree in tote, and a seven year old daughter, she is running a non-profit Muay Thai gym with her husband in his village.

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