What is horse fighting?
Horse fighting, or horse-to-horse combat, is a barbaric spectator sport where two stallions fight each other in a controlled environment.
Events are conducted before wildly cheering crowds who are stimulated by the blood, gore, fury and intensity of the contest.
Fighting to the death in this setting is not uncommon.
How do they make the horses fight?
Horses are herd animals and under natural circumstances engage in battle for leadership of their group and for mating purposes.
However, stallions (dominant males) do not fight to the death, but until one of them backs down or flees. This is nature’s way of ensuring that the strongest bloodlines are responsible for the procreation of their kind.
To start the competition, two stallions are brought in. A mare in heat is then presented to them and (1) removed and kept nearby for her scent (2) tied in the middle of the ring to keep the stallions fighting.
Stallions who do not immediately go into battle for the mare are whipped into a fury or gunshots fired to incite them through fear.
As the stallions rise in combat, they bite, kick and strike each other with their hooves, inflicting serious wounds and injuries until one of them either succumbs or is killed. The stallion left standing is declared the winner.
Aside from the physical pain and wounds incurred by the stallions, the mares are also subjected to animal cruelty, as they are injected with hormones to keep them in heat for prolonged periods.
How long do the fights last?
In festivals, a series of pairs are brought in to fight. The winners of these bouts then fight each other, until all are eliminated but the final two. In the deciding contest, the ultimate winner is declared the champion who is decorated with a special blanket and cheered by the crowd. It is considered a great honor to own the winning horse.
In provincial horse fights, stallions compete in a series of one-off matches.
Competing horses are often ill-matched which results in gruesome injuries and even death to the weaker opponent.
Where does horse fighting take place?
Organized horse fighting is a traditional observance of Chinese New Year among the Miao people that has occurred for more than 500 years.
Though illegal according to national law, it is also widely practiced in the island of Mindanao in the Philippines where, as of 2008, approximately 1,000 horses were being bred annually for horse fights.
Organized horse fighting has also been recorded in Thailand, in South Korea’s Jeju Province, on Muna Island in Indonesia, and among medieval Norse settlers in Iceland, where it was known as hestavíg.
Why does horse fighting still go on?
Countries staging horse fights defend it as a cultural tradition to celebrate the harvest that has gone on for hundreds of years, and resist any attempts to ban it.
However, gambling is the major motivation for holding these barbaric contests, and the primary and increasingly the sole reason for horse fighting’s continued existence.
Sadly these barbaric contests have become a popular tourist attraction.