Ocean View is a contender for one of the world’s most ironic place names. Stuck between mountains and exquisite white-sand beaches, this distant suburb of Cape Town has, in fact, no sea vista. It was created in 1968 by South Africa’s apartheid regime as a “township” for so-called colored people, who themselves had been forced out of areas that looked out on the Atlantic.

Houses made of stone and brick lie among vacant, grassless lots, signaling a middle-class life by South African standards-one without extreme wealth or poverty, but still touched by the country’s rampant problems of unemployment, substance abuse and crime. Breeding or owning a fierce dog is part of the local culture-to protect one’s home from burglars, for instance.

A man stands with his dog in Ocean View, Cape Town.

But some turn to dog fighting, a brutal and illegal activity, for fun and money, pitting pitbulls and other hounds bred and trained to kill against each other. “These fights can get the owner between 5,000 and 20,000 rand ($330-1,300 / 300- 1,200 euros) if his dog wins,” said one dog owner, who said he had given up the business. Combat takes place in a ring, which is set up either in an apartment or “in the bush”, out in the countryside, where the noise of barking or distressed dogs cannot be heard by passers-by. Owners set the date for the fight around eight months in advance, giving them enough time to raise and maltreat a dog so that it is ready to fight with mindless ferocity.

Combat continues until one dog dies. “It can last between 40 minutes to three hours,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Police try to crack down on the illegal activity, often using informers to bust a network, said an insider. But dogs are not just bred for fighting. Having a fierce dog provides social status as a sign of virility, and also provides protection. “Nobody will jump over my fence because my dog is a bad one,” said one owner proudly. — AFP