Friday may be a day of prayer and rest for humans in Afghanistan, but for some dogs, it is the worst day of the week.
Each Friday morning, thousands of men gather on the outskirts of the capital for a favorite local pastime: dog fighting. Hulking Mastiffs and other large breed mixes can be found at the end of their tethers, teeth barred in preparation for another Friday of barbaric entertainment for the locals.
Money changes hands rapidly in the crowd. While few Afghans admit to gambling, wagers are common, and a fighting dog with a winning record can sell for as much as a new car.
In Kabul, one promoter said the “biggest and best” fights are held in private clubs with dogs owned by wealthy businessmen, with purses that reach the upper five figure range – in one of the world’s poorest countries. The most successful fight dog owners spend more in a month to feed and groom their dogs than the average citizen will earn in a month.
Because of the costs associated with raising and training fighting dogs, they are not allowed to fight to the death. A fight is stopped when one dog clearly establishes dominance over another. Fights usually last a few minutes before being broken up, and spectators say they prefer it that way. “I don’t like it when the dog gets hurt; I want to go home,” says Amanullah, 40, a telephone salesman who attends the fights each week. “They cannot talk, so God says we must be kind to them.”