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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dog Fights: The New Blood Sport

The men wore fur-lined jackets and thick diamond rings. As the women walked in, their full-length mink and sable coats swept the floor. A few even brought children.

But when the action began, all decorum ceased.

"Go, go, kill him, break his neck! " the audience roared, jostling to get a better view of two pit bulls clenched in a desperate fight. When the weaker dog was down on the floor, bleeding and gasping for breath, the crowd broke into applause.

Dog fights, forbidden in the United States and most European countries, have become the latest fad of Russia's restless nouveau riche. Organized by the Russian Pit Bull Owners Club, the fights were started this summer, but were suspended due to "a commercial secret". For an equally mysterious reason, the dog fights were revived this year. The most recent fight of the season took place last Sunday night on the volleyball court of the Oktyabr stadium.

Some 200 spectators, most of whom arrived in expensive foreign cars, paid 500 rubles each to sit on benches and watch the fight. Most of the dogs were American Staffordshire terriers, bull terriers and American pit bulls; there were also a few shepherds and one mastino.

The dogs were brought to opposite corners of a ring that was fenced with metal bars and covered with rubber mats. When the referee gave the signal, the dogs were unleashed. Unlike the spectators, the dogs make little noise when they fight -- they simply fight to kill. To prevent mortalities, wooden sticks are put in the dog's mouths to pull the animals apart.

It was not a pretty sight. One woman escorted her child out of the gym.

"Pit bulls are not exhibition dogs, their looks do not matter", explained Oleg, a leader of a pit bull club who declined to give his last name. "They have to be appreciated for their fighting spirit, which is called gameness. A fighting dog is born with it".

The pit bull club brought 13 dogs from Europe and America to Moscow to "breed the best fighting dogs in the world", Oleg said.

A one-year-old pit bull terrier named Jim Dandy won the first two rounds, but not without taking a few hits himself.

"His wounds will mostly heal in three days, but last month he had to undergo surgery because a big wound on his chest got infected", the dog's owner, a said.

The owner, a 20-year-old man named Roman who came from Ukraine for the fight. His dog's performance won Roman 5, 000 rubles. There is the chance for other winnings, however. Although betting was officially banned last summer, many of the owners and spectators continue to bet among themselves.

Officials with the Moscow Militia said they were completely unaware that dog fights are held in the city

"This is the first time I've ever heard about dogfights", said Nikolai Boiko of the GUVD press office. "But I don't think any law forbids this. Morality, however, is not a legal issue".