February 9, 2007
Friday afternoon reading: Dogfighting championships
The best Times articles are often the non-news features about some weird practice going on out in the world somewhere that has no bearing whatsoever on life as we know it. Today we've got the illegal but popular sport Russian dog fighting; lots of crazy, bloody details that show what a bizarre place Russia is these days.
The sport involves massive, thick-headed breeds, including Central Asian shepherd dogs and Caucasian ovcharka, bred by livestock herders across the continent to defend sheep and cattle in the mountains and on the steppe. Collectively the dogs are called volkodavs, the wolf-killers.
While most of the day’s more than 10 matches drew little blood, this one was different. Jack and Sarbai tore each other’s mouths with the first bites. Blood flowed, staining the dogs’ faces and flanks.
Between Sarbai and Jack’s rounds, other dogs fought. One was called Koba, the nickname used by Stalin. He won.
Another was named Khattab, after a Jordanian-born terrorist who fought in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Chechnya before Russia’s intelligence service killed him with a poison-soaked letter in 2002. (!!!) He won, too, in the junior middleweight class, extending his undefeated record to eight wins.
Each fight lasts until one dog shows fear or pain — by dropping its tail, squeaking, whimpering, refusing to fight or snapping its jaws defensively, all grounds for instant disqualification. There is no scoring. There are only winners and losers or, in fights that continue for three rounds without an animal yielding, draws.
Many dogfights in Russia are said to be tainted, with steroid-swelled dogs, or animals smeared with wolf fat to confuse or intimidate their foes, or dogs’ mouths injected with Novocain to make them fight without hesitation.
And a wonderful quote that echoes Borat's "we say in Kazakhstan that horse is like man" speech:
"The dogs teach us," he said. "You cannot look at a dog and tell who it is. The dog is on the inside, not on the outside. It is in his spirit."
"It is the same with people," he added, and lifted his glass.
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