Lively, noisy, colourful affairs that have fascinated the Balinese for centuries, cockfights play a significant role in village life.

As with so many aspects of the local culture, cockfighting has its origins in Balinese Hinduism. It’s believed that the spilling of blood will appease evil spirits and keep them from causing disturbances (this is why blood sacrifices are held at certain ceremonies).

However, way beyond its religious significance, cockfighting is a popular form of gambling and entertainment. Gambling has been illegal in Indonesia since 1981, but the law only put an end to large-scale highly organized fights; local village cockfights are still popular and in the little villages on the fringes of Ubud you’ll often see men by the sides of the roads engaged in their best-loved form of recreation: grooming their fighting birds while chatting with friends.

The cockerels are kept in rattan cages and fed a special diet to make them strong. Just prior to the fight, bets are made and a razor blade is attached to each cockerel’s leg. The fight lasts only a few minutes, following a strict set of rules, and ends when one of the two fighting birds is mortally wounded. In the past the dying bird was immediately eaten, but nowadays the cockerels are, sadly, too pumped full of steroids to be edible.