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As It Was: Rooster Crow Contest Originates with Welsh Miners

Since 1953, the town of Rogue River, Ore., has held a rooster crowing contest every June.  Shade Combs got the idea from an article he read about rooster competitions among Welsh miners.

The popular event has attracted coverage by the New York Times, and entries have come from as far away as Granite City, Ill.  The winner is the rooster that crows the greatest number of times in 30 minutes.

In 1953, the first prize of $150 went to “Beetlebaum,” who crowed 109 times, a record that was undefeated until 1978, when “White Lightning” crowed 112 times. 

There are many theories about how to make a rooster crow. Some owners ruffle the bird’s feathers; others sing, coo, shout and jump up and down.  White Lightning’s owner, Willie Beck of Gold Hill, said he kept his rooster in seclusion for six weeks before the contest.  He brought the bird in a large sack. Beck exclaimed, “When he heard the other roosters, he just took off.”

The rooster crowing contest lasts a week in Rogue River, featuring a “Rooster Crow Run,” a parade, and even a “Human Crow” contest.

Sources: Fox, Bert. "New Champ at the Crow." The Mail Tribune, 25 June 1978 [Medford, Oregon], p. 1; Hallmark, Allen. "Rooster Crow Started in '53 with Idea by Shade Combs." The Mail Tribune, 27 June 1976 [Medford, Oregon], Sunday ed., p. 1; "Rooster Crow: A National Event That's Not For the Birds." Rogue River Chamber.com, Rogue River Chamber of Commerce, rogueriverchamber.com/rooster_crow.php. Accessed 6 July 2018; Van Horn, Mabel. "History of Rooster Crow Started In '53." Medford Mail Tribune, 19 June 1968.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.