Of casteadores, gallos y galleras
: the cockfight world in the Canary Islands

  • Ricardo Ontillera Sánchez

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of the present work is to explore the world of cockfighting in the Canary Islands, where over three consecutive years (2016-2018) a wide range of issues were researched. Given its legal status, the cockfight in the Canary Islands is not a prohibited event held in secret locations, where those who attend may be prosecuted, as is the case in the UK and most European countries. Therefore, the study was not restricted to the fights themselves, but it was also an exploration of the encompassing world of cockfighting, including breeding, training, and socialising, that brought about those public fights and performances. To achieve that, I adopted an ethnographic perspective in which participant observation and interviewing were essential methodological tools. By presenting detailed ethnographic accounts of this world, this thesis shows the importance of understanding the rearing of gamecocks to fully grasp the meaning given to the fights by Canarian breeders and aficionados. With the help of narrative fragments and quotations from my interviews, I also offer an ethnographic description of cockfights according to eight different aspects of the event. Essentially, aficionados go to watch and admire the drama of the contest, the fighting birds’ performance. In the Spanish archipelago, breeders can compete both in single-date championships (campeonatos) and weekly leagues (contratas). These two methods of organisation represent one of the singularities of the cockfights in the Canary Islands where also the relatively low importance of betting, in comparison with other regions, represents another peculiarity of the event. Lastly, by introducing several quotations from the fieldwork in which breeders and aficionados give their views on roosters, this thesis demonstrates how breeders perceive fighting birds as animals of a unique nature.
Date of Award11 Feb 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SponsorsArts and Humanities Research Council & ASA/Radcliffe-Brown Truat 2018
SupervisorGarry Marvin (Supervisor) & Istvan Praet (Supervisor)


  • Human-Animal Studies
  • Multispecies ethnography
  • Cockfighting
  • Chicken

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