Unreal Photos of Cockfighting’s Deadly Appendages

In 'Patas De Gallo,' photographer Alexa Hoyer highlights the tools used in the controversial bloodsport of cockfighting.

by VICE Staff
May 14 2019, 7:45pm

All Photographs by Alexa Hoyer

Alexa Hoyer’s portraits of monstrous claws armed with strange, alien appendages make a mysterious and compelling first impression. They seem to have come from a faraway, mythical or imaginary land.

Cockfighting is a controversial bloodsport where two roosters are forced to fight until one dies or is injured. The roosters are bred for battle and, in certain regions, sport metal knives on their spurs called gaffs or cockspurs. Practitioners defend the sport as sacred artform and ancient tradition that dates back thousands of years. For others, it’s an act of animal cruelty, where roosters are tortured for human entertainment.

Gaffs come in different shapes and designs. Some are shorter or longer. Some feature straps, training guards, or sheaths. Despite their deadly function, they can often appear quite beautiful. In order to research and document these appendages, Alexa Hoyer visited galleros, or cockfighting farmers, in Mexico.

By stripping the roosters of their body and context, Hoyer’s photographs captivate with an enigmatic beauty that initially feels made-up or unreal. A closer look reveals a dangerous weapon laden with impending violence. It is this epiphany and tension that Hoyer is interested in exploring. By presenting a cold, detached and highly aestheticized representation of a weapon, she highlights the seductive allure that often conceals a brutal reality.

All photographs by Alexa Hoyer. You can follow more of her work here.

Alex Hoyer