- This paper has lots of sensible things to say about the disconnection of modern human beings from nature and from our food-sources, and the way keeping chickens can help bridge the gap.
- The author briefly supplies the usual assessment of the cognitive and social excellences of chickens, and the awful state they are kept in (at least in American industrial farming).
- But, the focus of the article is in “roosters”. I’m not sure whether these male chickens are quite the same as cockerels in the UK, but they seem rather nasty pieces of work; very aggressive – once adult – towards all-comers, but particularly unpleasant towards the hens during mating.
- They are protective of the flock, but our author opines that the girls would get along fine without them – a rather fanciful notion to anyone who’s witnessed the depredations of the local fox.
- The author supports the theory – promulgated by Naomi Sykes1 – that roosters’ aggressive behaviour is all down to selective breeding in support of cock-fighting, and that poultry were first domesticated for that purpose – and other cultic reasons – rather than for food. I have my doubts; drakes are rather aggressive towards female ducks, but I’ve never heard of duck-fighting.
- There’s also a conflicting pair of speculations – that cock-fighting is currently associated with dysfunctional macho societies, but also historically resulted in the reduction of inter-male violence, though with an increase of violence against women. The former claim is by Hal Herzog in "Herzog (Hal) - Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why it's So Hard to Think Straight About Animals", the latter again by Naomi Sykes.
- The paper ends with reference to rooster sanctuaries where the violent birds can be trained out of their nasty ways and live happily. I have my doubts – cock-fighting only “works” because of the natural aggression of male birds towards one another – and presumably the ancestors of chickens were selected as fine exemplars of this trait.
- See “A social perspective on the introduction of exotic animals: the case of the chicken” (Aeon: Giracca - Consider the rooster).
- Studies of animal introductions have traditionally been the preserve of ecologists and natural historians but here it is argued that exotic species are a rich source of cultural evidence with the potential to enhance archaeological interpretations relating to human behaviour and beliefs.
- This paper focuses on the domestic fowl (Gallus gallus), a native of East Asia that spread across Europe during the Neolithic to Iron Age and became well established by the end of the Roman period.
- After reviewing the evidence for the diffusion of chickens and the concept of cockfighting, this paper presents a speculative argument about the impact of domestic fowl on Iron Age and Roman Britain.
- By drawing upon evidence from history, anthropology and human remains analysis, the article explores how the arrival of these new creatures may have helped shape human society, particularly in terms of gender definition and attitudes to violence.
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)