Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Grimm, Edward Bohlander, Thomas Dunn

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This thesis, being one of exploratory research initially because of a paucity of research of a professional and academic nature, examines cockfighting in its social entirety, focusing upon its social structure. The lack of such previous research on cockfighting necessitated the collection of data through primary as well as secondary sources. Thus, a combination of research methods was employed to facilitate the investigation. A combination of data collection strategies also proved necessary for the realization of the total research objective, that being the presentation of cockfighting as a complete social structure involving a history and tradition, the activity as a sport, its organization, complexity, extent and distribution, as well as other social considerations. In essence then, the research focus addresses a socioethnographic investigation of cockfighting. The entire research strategy was intended to study the cockfighting participants au naturel, in the field, as they went about their day to day lives as opposed to depending on a sample studied in non-natural surroundings such as arrest records.

Such observational research yields an immensity of detailed description that does not readily lend itself to the type of summary that is possible with quantifiable data. However, precise quantification often does not afford the detailed accuracy that is facilitated by observational research, and such detailed description becomes necessary to provide an adequate background of understanding to those having no social experience with such an activity, and for such an activity that has not previously stimulated much research interest. Thus, an ethnographic description of the sport is presented as well as the social and legal history of the sport, the linguistic influences of the activity, the distribution and regional variation of the sport, along with other surrounding activities. Such detailed presentation is essential for an accurate conception of cockfighting and its organization.

In reviewing the literature concerning the concept of subculture, the requisites for the existence and thus the characteristics of a subculture are delineated; such characteristics are then reveals 2 to exist within the realm of cockfighting. Identified as inteqral to the cockfighting subculture are nine subcultural roles which present themselves in an evolutionary and chronological hierarchy. Also discerned by the research are four major motivations cited by the twenty informants for reason(s) of membership. Such motivational types may be directly associated with certain of the subcultural roles. Throughout the thesis, the culture and tradition of the cockfighting subculture is exposed along with the subcultural values and justifications. An analysis of subcultural "deviance" is presented largely from the perspectives of the labeling theory and symbolic politics. It was revealed that there seems to be a lack of development of a deviant self-image among members of the cockfighting subculture, and further, as indicated by the twenty informants, members of the cockfighting subculture are apparently rather tolerant of participants in various types of "deviant behaviors," possibly because of their association with a stigmatize activity.

The organization of cockfighting is juxtaposed with the concept of voluntary associations after sufficient literature addressing voluntary associations has been reviewed. This juxtaposition reveals many similarities between the cockfighting subculture and the voluntary association, the one exception being the formal structure of the voluntary association. However, in that the cockfighting subculture has a tradition and a culture that functionally replaces the formal structure in many areas, the concept of "informal voluntary associations" emerges.

This thesis finds that the cockfighting subculture is extremely organized and largely self-regulating and that the participants represent all social classes, thus violating the stereotypical conceptions and attitudes of the public concerning cockfighting. Finally, certain suggestions are made for potential and/or future research into cockfighting and related topics raised by this thesis.


Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture