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A ferocious blood‐sport, probably introduced by the Romans, in which intensively trained gamecocks with metal or bone spurs were set to fight, usually to the death, on a stage in a circular pit. Mains (matches) were variously structured, with rules, the rowdy spectacles generally accompanied by heavy betting. County competition first showed itself in this sport, usually as three‐day events and often associated with race meetings. Opposition grew in the early 19th cent., but although banned in 1835 and 1849, it persisted in coal‐mining areas, and may still occur secretly.

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