The Bloodthirsty Sport Of Spider Fighting

“There are spiders whose bite can cause the place bitten to rot and to die, sometimes more than a year after it was bitten. As to why spiders do this, the answer is simple. It’s because spiders think this is funny, and they don’t want you ever to forget them.” —Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

In A Nutshell

Spider fighting is an extremely popular blood sport in the Philippines where children capture and force spiders to fight atop a stick, often to the death. The Filipino government frowns on spider fighting as it introduces children to the world of gambling. Filipino farmers also look down on the sport as spiders protect their crops from insects.

The Whole Bushel

Spider fighting is your worst nightmare come true. This ghastly sport takes place in the Philippines and is popular among children although it has attracted a large adult audience as well. The rules are pretty simple. The arachnids are placed on a stick and shoved toward each other until they start fighting. If a spider falls off the stick three times, it loses. If a spider gets wrapped up in its opponent’s webbing, it loses. And of course, a spider match can always result in death. This is one of those situations where winning really is everything.

According to Filipino children, there’s an art to catching the right spider. Kids wake up early in the morning to hunt for future champions, and the best fighters are said to be the ones living on electric power lines. The eight-legged pugilists are kept in matchboxes, and winners can fetch up to 100 pesos ($2.40) on the spider fighting market.

However, not everyone is pleased with spider wrestling. Filipino farmers are worried about the local arachnid population, fearing a decrease in spiders will give rise to an influx of insects. Even the Filipino government is cracking down on the blood sport, not out of concern for the animals’ welfare but because spider wrestling is causing students to skip school. Evidently, kids would rather watch spiders fight than study, and they spend more time catching prizefighters than doing homework. Officials are also concerned that spider fighting will introduce kids to the world of gambling (which is illegal in the Philippines). Spiders fights are quite a draw for gamblers, and bets can get as high as 50,000 pesos (a little over $1,100). That’s a lot of cash when you’re talking about battling arachnids.

Show Me The Proof

BBC: Spider wrestlers put on hold
Spider fighting: For adults not kids?
Spider Wrestling Banned in Philippines

  • Brp Goyo

    I’m from the Philippines and I used to own fighting spiders. Snotty rich kids own weak house spiders. Poor but brave kids own the better, bigger, braver and more diverse forest spiders. I used to have both because money talks and that I’m a half-breed and kids think its cool to befriend me (they gave me pet spiders as offerings) 😀

    Anyways, I seriously don’t think these childish past time will cause the extinction of spiders or even a drastic reduction in population that would in turn increase insect population. And as for the fights that draw $1000 bets, those are waaaay far off from what we kids used to play. Those high stake bets were organized I think by exotic pet collectors getting bankrupt and ran out of buyers for their thousands of tarantula slings.

    Lastly, we also do this on beetles. Salagubang as they call it here, and those are waaaaaaaaaaaay more fun since the diversity of beetles and their immense population start off an insane race for the best fighter. Beetle fights however, are less dangerous to the beetles themselves. You place a chewed gum on top of beetle A, stick beetle B on top of him and place the gummed beetle horizontally on the ground. Whoever beetle overpowers the other wins! 😀

    • Anthony

      don’t you think it is wrong to do this?

      • Brp Goyo

        They’re just spiders. And after all, do you have any idea how many pets were set free by irresponsible owners in more developed countries?

        • Anthony

          They’re living creatures as well.

    • Angel Gabriel

      I haven’t tried the latter but I think its interesting.. Salagubang can be found everywhere in my parents place. Let’s see this coming weekend.

    • GelsBells

      This is just wrong. Spiders may not be the most adorable creatures out there but they don’t deserve this

    • Hadeskabir

      Go to school boy. You need to study hard. Finding a job in your country isn’t easy.

      • Brp Goyo

        Do not be self-centered. Not everyone is living the exact dynamics of your life. It never occurred to you I have a job already? It never occurred to you I’m already on my last stretch of a bachelor’s degree and already got a slot for a masters degree? Are you even from this country? I need to study hard? No. You need to contemplate on your way of thinking waaaaaaaaaaaaay harder.

        • Hadeskabir

          A masters degree wont save you from unemployment.

          • Brp Goyo

            The fact that you missed the point of my last reply’s second sentence only proves the importance of contraceptives.

          • Hadeskabir

            Contraceptives? I thought you guys were hard core catholics! You guys don’t believe in contraceptives.

          • Brp Goyo

            I…. that…. you… uh…. ugh… stupidity…. overbearing….

          • Hadeskabir

            Oh, you are having difficulties typing. What’s happening? Another flood or earthquake?

          • Brp Goyo

            Another you

          • Anthony

            More like another typhoon

          • Anthony

            Oh snap!

    • inconspicuous detective

      i think that for what a creature like the spider does for us, it earns enough respect not to be forced into fighting to the death. if it were mosquito death match or something, i’m sure as sunday anyone would be game.

  • Talia Hoysted

    This is sick

  • Angel Gabriel

    I used to do this 20 years ago. In urban areas today it’s rarely being played. But in provinces o rural areas like Visayas and Mindanao, the last time I heard still very famous. The researcher did a good job on the details. You might not believe this but Manny Pacquio is/was a huge fun of Spider gambling. He even has an assistant to take care of his prized arachnids. This sport may be bad but it’s one of the best part of my childhood. Sorry…

  • Ji99a

    Next thing we know, bacteria fighting is “too violent”.

    • Hadeskabir

      I would like to throw your jigga ass in to a pit and watch you fight another jigga for your life.

  • The Ou7law

    I fight vagina with my penis

    • Samuel Levi Silva

      Or do you?..

  • Exiled Phoenix

    I prefer dog fights.

  • HockeyFan69

    Everyone shut up about it being ‘wrong’. They’re just spiders. Not everyone on planet earth has parents that can afford to buy their kids an XBOX and an iPad and an iPhone and an ipod and a tv and every toy they want. Inion say it again: they aren’t dogs or cats or even chickens. They’re just spiders. Shut. Up.

  • HockeyFan69

    Everyone shut up about it being ‘wrong’. They’re just spiders. Not everyone on planet earth has parents that can afford to buy their kids an XBOX and an iPad and an iPhone and an ipod and a tv and every toy they want. I’ll say it again: they aren’t dogs or cats or even chickens. They’re just spiders. Shut. The hell. Up.

    • Keeblertex

      Amen.

    • Wil Sabado

      I used to play spiders when I was a kid. But the term: “THEY ARE JUST SPIDERS” is simply rude. Anyway I love the sport.

  • JustPassingThrough

    I’ll be honest, I didn’t know if this article was serious or not until about halfway through. Sure it’s mean to cause unneeded stress and violence in two creature’s lives, but I also sensed a tad bit of melodrama. Yes it’s weird and kind of sadistic, but honestly, spider fighting is one of the least of my concerns.
    It was an interesting article, but I’m not about to stick a fuzzy ribbon magnet on my carb bumper in protest of the overseas infractions of spider rights.

  • GasolineRainbow

    I did this first year of uni with a group of mates. I did not know it was a sport in the Phillipines.

  • LuvsHorror

    I catch house spiders and put them in the same jar. The strongest eats the weakest.

  • Sonja C

    Great article, Nolan! I would like to share it with my writing class, with your permission.

  • April Jennings

    I guess I’m not getting the finer workings of this…wouldn’t the spider just try to crawl down the stick? And as far as that goes, you wouldn’t be finding my hand at the other end of any stick holding a fighting spider.

    • Jayson Juanani

      If kid A’s spider crawls down the stick, it will be marked as a coward and the fight will be called off.

      In some cases, kid B will insult kid A’s spider. And kid A, not allowing his fighter get insulted, will engage in a heated argument with kid B. In the end, the two kids will fight each other as the spiders watch. True story.

  • Liege_Lord

    Well spoken. I agree I just do not envision this having an impact on the spider population. Spiders can reproduce by the hundreds or thousands, case specific single fights would have little to no impact. Something that would endanger an insect population would most likely have to involve a change in their physical environment or the introduction of certain chemicals. Physically killing the spiders would just not be enough, or we would have that issue regardless, in the U.S people generally kill any spider they can if the opportunity presents itself, and I have not yet heard of this causing major issues.

    • Anthony

      But we’re not worried how killing spiders would impact the population, it’s just the idea of spiders being forced to fight to death is just wrong. How would you like it if spiders force humans to fight to death, whether for entertainment or for population control purposes?

      • Liege_Lord

        I’m sorry sir you are mistaken, I was referring to the article verbatim:

        “Filipino farmers are worried about the local arachnid population, fearing a decrease in spiders will give rise to an influx of insects.”
        I do agree with you the ethics of forcing any creature to fight to the death for no reason is crass.

  • Opinion

    If you’re a 90’s kid like me in the Philippines, you’ve probably played the “sport” when you were younger. It was like a real, live version of Street Fighter back then. But now, I don’t see children doing it anymore. It probably died down due to technology and nowadays kids are always in front of laptop computers and tablets. Quite saddening, really.

  • Viktor von Gerdenheim

    Based on my experience (I used to engage in spider fights):

    1. The spiders are put on sticks, but they are not shoved. They are left approach each other. A spider that needs to be shoved to make it move towards its opponent is considered as an undesirable specimen since these are the ones with a tendency to flee at the approach of an opponent. I’ve actually had a few of these and one that actually just sat tight while its opponent wrapped it in silk.

    2. Spider fights (for children) is indeed a bit of a gamble. But it is not money that is exchanged but the combatant spiders themselves. The owner of the winning spider gets to keep the loser. This is why kids avoid having the spiders killed. Winning is pointless if your prize is dead and worthless. Also, spiders that get bitten and wrapped do not automatically die. Unwrapped quickly, they usually recover. I won quite a few this way.

    3. There are three ways to lose:
    a. Having your spider bitten and wrapped.
    b. Your spider dangling down and having its silk cut by the opponent
    c. Your spider falling down during the fight

    4. The best spiders are not found on electric wires. Those spiders are large, creepy, and don’t fight. The best spiders are found in wooded areas or in bushes. These are hunted at nightfall (pangingilaw, literally “hunting with a light”) not early morning, as I recall.

    5. There is only a limited number of spiders that are picked for spider fights: abatek, de uno, estrella, sili. Not every spider is caught. And most of the sellers are farmers who catch them during off season (spider fights are seasonal, not year round events). Filipino farmers, if I’m not mistaken, do not rely of spiders for pest control. They generally use pesticide sprays.

    6. Spiders are not caught in large numbers. children will typically maintain only 4-6 spiders. The rest (those that they have won) they sell or trade to other kids.

    7. When the season ends, the spiders are usually released into the bushes again.

  • Ray

    Spider fighting is not my worst nightmare.

  • Wil Sabado

    Wow. I think you people are exaggerating this issue. Okay, I used to own and fight spiders when I was a kid. There is only one season for spider hunting a year, just like there’s a season for Turkey hunting when you’re in the west. Here in the Southern Philippines, where I live, we only hunt spiders during Febuary to March. Spider Season ends before April. And all spiders where released on the bushes and no one wants to keep it nor catch it for the season is already over. Therefore those spiders have a chance to breed and multiply again to thousands and thousands. This “EXTINCTION” you are saying is just hilarious. Anyway, the best spiders are not caught on Electic Wires but on the forests and Corn fields. My Favorite kind of fighting spider is the EL TIGRE wich can be found on woods and the MAIZAN wich could be found on corn fields. Lol… Still can remember this childhood game.

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