Master cockfighting teacher closing Texas school - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

12/16/06-BLANKET, Texas

Master cockfighting teacher closing Texas school

Mike Ratliff demonstrates part of his conditioning routine for one his fighting cocks at his home in Blanket, Texas. Mike Ratliff demonstrates part of his conditioning routine for one his fighting cocks at his home in Blanket, Texas.

Too old to walk much any more, Mike Ratliff of Blanket cruises around his small farm on a scooter, weaving through the chickens.

The 83-year-old chicken farmer some call "The Chicken Man" stops near one rooster -- who's no ordinary chicken.

He's large and magnificent with white, red and brown plumage. This bird's bred to fight and kill in a bloodsport that dates back centuries and is illegal in most states.

New Mexico and Louisiana are the only states that allow cockfights, but Texas permits people to raise fighters and teach breeding and training methods.

Since 1968, Ratliff's has taught an estimated eight-thousand cockfighters around the world how to breed and train game birds at his "School for Beginning Cockers."

But now worn down by age, he's closing shop -- to the cheers of animal welfare groups.

His last class met last month when two sons of a former student from Guatemala came to the tiny West Texas town to learn from the master.

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