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The combatants, referred to as gamecocks (not to be confused with game birds), are specially bred and conditioned for increased stamina and strength.Male and female chickens of such a breed are referred to as game fowl.The comb and wattle are cut off in order to meet show standards of the American Gamefowl Society and to prevent freezing in colder climates (the standard emerged from the older practice of severing the comb, wattles, and earlobes of the bird in order to remove anatomical vulnerabilities, similar to the practice of docking a dog's tail and ears ).Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species.The combatants are strictly paired up to fight according to their body weight.The allowed difference in weight between the contenders ranks from half to one ounce (14–29 grams) according to the body weight.

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In the highest levels of 17th century English cockfighting, the spikes were made of silver.

While not all fights are to the death, the cocks may endure significant physical trauma.

In some areas around the world, cockfighting is still practiced as a mainstream event; in some countries it is regulated by law, or forbidden outright.

Cocks are given the best of care until near the age of two years.

They are conditioned, much like professional athletes, prior to events or shows. Cockfighting is a blood sport due in some part to the physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other, which is sometimes increased by attaching metal spurs to the cocks' natural spurs.

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