Approval versus Disapproval of Dogfighting and Cockfighting among College Students

Article excerpt

We explored both the extent of approval/disapproval of cockfighting and dogfighting and the personality and animal attitude correlates of such approval versus disapproval. Cockfighting was selected because it is one of the most common sports in the world, especially in Latin America and Asia. Dogfighting was selected because, even though it is illegal, it frequently occurs in the United States.

Atyeo (1979) reviewed the history of dogfighting in the United States from its roots in England, where the Staffordshire bull terrier was bred for aggressiveness. English breeders first introduced Staffordshire terriers to the United States in the 1860s. The American bull terrier was bred to be larger and stronger than its English counterpart.

Evans, Gauthier, and Forsyth (1998) interviewed 31 American dogmen for between two and four hours at dogfights, at prefight meetings, and at the homes of the dogmen. Evans et al. found that as dog fighters tended to be men, Southern, and working class, pit bull fighting was essentially a poor man's sport. They maintained that dogfighting is a symbolic expression and validation of masculinity.

Lee, Gibbons, and Short (2010) showed college students a dogfight film involving a bait dog and administered a 6-item scale they devised and called Sympathy for the Bait Dog. Women were associated with greater sympathy and empathic concern (i.e., general trait sympathy), and scored higher on the Trait Sympathy for Animal Suffering 6-item Scale. Bonas, McNicholas, and Collis (2000) found in their study of pets in the network of family relationships that scores for companionship, nurturance, and reliable alliance were higher for human-dog relationships than for human-human relationships. In addition, support from human-dog relationships was higher than support from human-cat relationships.

McCaghy and Neal (1974) observed that few sports have the wide geographical distribution of cockfighting, which is found throughout the western hemisphere, for example, in Hawaii, and in the Philippines, Indonesia, Southeast Asia, India, and central China. In the United States, cockfighting is a sport said to be especially common among Puerto Ricans, Cajuns, Delta Blacks, Mexican-Americans, and rural Whites, and is most popular in the southern and western states (Forsyth, 1996). Cockfighting is now illegal in every state of the USA and a felony in 35 states and the District of Columbia (ASPCA, 2012).

In this study, we examined the extent of approval/disapproval of both cockfighting and dogfighting among a group of American college students and their correlates by assessing masculinity, empathy toward humans, and attitudes toward animals. Gender was included as a factor because it has been found in previous studies that dogfighting and cockfighting are primarily male activities.



The 206 volunteer participants comprising 141 women (68%) and 65 men (32%) were recruited in American undergraduate courses. The age of participants ranged from 18 to 53 years, with a mean of 24.38 and a standard deviation of 7.64. In terms of ethnic origin, 36% defined themselves as White/ Euro-American, 33% Hispanic American, 10% Asian Pacific Islander, 6% Other, 4% African American, 3% Middle Eastern, 3% Native American, 3% Southeast Asian, and 2% East Indian.


In addition to using four psychometric instruments, we used the scale shown in Table 1 to assess participant approval/disapproval of dogfighting and cockfighting.

Interpersonal Reactivity Index. Davis (1980) developed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) to measure human-directed empathy. The IRI is a 28-item Likert-type instrument that has four 7-item subscales with internal consistencies ranging from .71 to .72. We employed total score for this study. Preylo and Arikawa (2008) found that vegetarian status correlated .39 with the empathic concern subscale, . …