Cock Throwing

Cock Throwing is a blood sport that was widely practiced in England (also known as Cock-shying or Throwing at Cocks), practiced until the late 18th century. It was a popular hobby for all people, though it wasn’t as common as cockfighting.

Participants use a rooster where they tie it to a post and people took turns throwing coksteles, a special weighted stick, until the rooster died.

To make the game last longer or if the bird had its legs broken, people would sometimes support the bird with sticks. They would even place it inside a ceramic jar to stop it from moving around.

A goose was substituted in other areas many times and players would sometimes be blindfolded as they try to aim to the bird.

During 1660, a riot took place when officials from Bristol issued a statement to stop cock throwing, also cat and dog tossing.

cock throwing engraving of the sport throwing at animals
by William Hogarth, 1751

In 1737, a contributor to The Gentleman’s Magazine associated this bizarre contest with Shrove Tuesday, a day in February or March, after Ash Wednesday (first day of lent), was of the belief that cock throwing started from long-established hostility towards the French for which the bird played an emblematical character.
Cock throwing slowly diminished in English sport. They suddenly cared for social values and animal safety after it was featured as a barbarous activity in The Four Stages of Cruelty in 1751, a series of four printed engravings by William Hogarth, an English painter, pictorial satirist, and social critic. It was the first stage of cruelty in the painting.

Josiah Tucker, a Welsh economist and political writer, also sacked the sport as the “most cruel and barbarous diversion in his ‘Earnest and Affectionate Address to the Common People of England Concerning their Usual Recreations on Shrove Tuesday’” in 1753, where it drew attention to the slow suffering torture of a ‘poor innocent creature’.

By the 18th century, civil officers and lay judges started imposing fines when they caught people continuing to take part of the blood sport. This was the start of the practice being banned in so many places. By the 19th century, cock throwing was just an old known tradition, not practiced anymore.

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