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Fighting spider, genus Araneus, similar to Araneus nordmanni.
Used matchbox serves as stable for fighting spiders in between derbies

Spider fighting (Hiligaynon: pahibag sang damang; Cebuano: paaway kaka) is a popular blood sport among rural Filipino children. The game begins by placing two spiders at opposite ends of a stick from a walis ting-ting (a broom made from the midribs of coconut leaves). The spiders are then led to one another until they wrestle. The first one to drop off the stick loses.[1] Top fighters can fetch up to 100 pesos (US$ 2), making the sport lucrative for children.

Contents

Harvesting and care

The spiders are usually caught in trees and bushes, although some favor those found spinning webs along power lines. These are believed to be more aggressive and much tougher fighters since spiders that live in areas exposed to predators fight better than those that live in secluded isolation. Spiders with slender bodies and long legs are also favored as better fighters. Slim, black spiders from guava or tamarind trees are also prized as fighters.[2] After capture or fighting, the spiders are stabled in used matchboxes. These matchboxes usually have separate cells to house different spiders. Spiders can be fed with insects although some trainers, especially adults, have their own secret feed formula. Prior to a match, the spider might be intentionally starved to increase its ferocity.

Legal and moral issues

The practice is now generally discouraged since it affects the educational performance of school children.[3] They could spend so much time hunting and training spiders that lessons and homework are missed. Adults also play the sport but in a way similar to cockfighting. Derbies are also held and bets could go as high as 30,000 pesos (about US$638). The cheaper maintenance cost of raising spiders compared to raising fighting cocks caused some players to switch to spider fighting.[4]

Ordinances against the sport are now in effect in some cities.[5] The sport might also be indirectly responsible for crop damage since spiders are useful in controlling insect pest populations. The spider derby is treated as a threat to public morals in Negros Occidental province. Bets as high as P50,000 (US$900) were being placed in Aidsisa, Silay City. The Bacolod City police provincial director issued an order warning residents of participating in a form of illegal gambling. In Cudangdang village in EB Magalona town, spiders were sold from P20 to P100 per box, and most buyers come from Bacolod City and Silay City. In the spider derby, the combatant that falls three times from a wooden stick loses; one that wraps its opponent in silk is declared the champion.[6]

Species

One species used for spider derbies in Singapore is Thiania bhamoensis, a jumping spider, also called the "Fighting spider".[7] The local spiders used in the Philippines, however, have a coloration ranging from ash-gray, light brown, reddish-brown to black, dissimilar from Thiania bhamoensis's green-blue hue. The Filipino fighting spiders resemble European garden spiders.

Other forms

An annual spider fighting contest called Kumo Gassen is held in Kajiki, Kagoshima, Japan.[8] The spiders used in this contest belong to the genus Argiope.

References

See also

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