Aslee Morog, born to fight
Cockfight is said to be one of the oldest sports of the world whose origin goes back to 6,000 years in Persia. But how Aslee Morag, a unique variety of fighting fowl, became a regular feature of Sarail remains a mystery.
Those involved in rearing Aslee Morog and their fighting these days say Zamindar Dewans of Sarail brought the rare variety from Iran 400 years back. Some say the belligerent fowl and the hen were imported from Ray Bareilly of India during Mughal era.
Whatever its origin may be, the fowls and their fights have made a name in Brahmanbaria and in other places in the country. Many of the households in Sarail upazila town, Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet now breed and rear Aslee Morag, and arrange their sport for pastime.
The grown-up fowls are of long legs, neck and physique and can grow up to 3 feet high and weigh five to six kilograms. They have fewer fluffs, but strong and sharp nails, and are very strong fighters. Even the one-day old chicks have been noted to fight each other and chicks of other breeds.
How is the cockfight?
Cockfights can be arranged at individual or group levels, says Gazi Mohammad Ashraf, owner of fighting cocks at Sarail Town.
“Say, one group from Dhaka declared that they have eight fowls and wants to fight against Brahmanbaria, we too form a group and collect eight cocks,” he said.
The fight occurs between two fowls of two groups. The standard time for a fight is two hours and 20 minutes. If one cannot defeat the other either by killing or injuring during the specified timeframe, the game comes to a draw. Thus, eight cocks of one group will fight the eight cocks of the other group in eight times. Those who win more than four times will win the whole tournament.
More the cocks are made to exercise, more they are able to fight, Ashraf said, adding that some cocks get tired in 30 minutes, while some continue the fight for hours. If the weather is sunny and hot, the fighting period endures for short periods, but if it is cold, it takes longer time.
“Therefore, cockfights are arranged mostly during the winter,” said Shafiqul Islam, a breeder of Aslee Morag, at Noagaon village of Sarail upazila sadar.
Ashraf said he chases his cocks every morning for over an hour, heats up cock's body by hot clothes and puts for practice fights every 15 days for 30 to 60 minutes.
One needs to spend quite a lot to fulfill the hobby. Each cock has to be kept at separate cage, as one cannot tolerate the other if kept together. Their regular feed in the morning includes wheat, rice and bread. Grass (Durba ghas) and hyacinth soaked with dews are their favourite food items. As lunch, they are provided with rice or wheat and pure water. Their evening food includes banana and boiled rice with water. They need a quiet environment for sound sleep and regular exercise for good health, said Shafiqul Islam.
Gazi Ashraf, 32, whose ancestors have traditionally nurtured the Aslee Morag, said he serves even better food for his cocks. These include local chicken, eggs and milk.
He spends so much for the Aslee cocks not for profits, but for hobby and maintaining tradition. However, he also has some gains out of breeding the cocks.
A grown-up and trained cock can be sold at Tk 25,000-30,000, said Ashraf, a farmer by profession.
“We also build friendship and fraternity through the sport. A lot of people come to Brahmanbaria, and we also go to Dhaka to contest the cockfight,” he said.
Cockfight is a tradition in many parts across the world -- in Asia, Europe, America. There are many legends surrounding the cockfight, which is even featured in literature and religions.
In many places, cockfights are outlawed often based on opposition to gambling or animal cruelty. In the United States cockfighting is banned. In many countries cockfighting is a popular sport, but betting is illegal.
“No, we don't conduct cockfights for money. It is our hobby. But, owners sometimes do betting, say, television or other items for prizes,” Ashraf said.
Let us hope that the cockfighting remains a sport, not a commercial venture or an act of cruelty against animals, to entertain people.