Posted by Smokey Stover on December 15, 2003
In Reply to: Dogfight posted by Shae on December 14, 2003
: : Yesterday we were watching some magpies get stuck into each other in the sky. The comment was, they're having a real dogfight up there.
: : I'm only familiar with this term arising from WWII (maybe WWI) fighter plane fights in the skies. To begin with, is that where the term originated, and secondly, why would a fight carried out in the sky be called a 'dogfight'? Why wouldn't you call it a birdfight for example (except maybe that it doesn't sound as vicious)?
: Dogfights, literally fights between two dogs in an enclosed arena, were a popular form of 'sport' in medieval times, and the practice is still continued today although it's illegal in many countries. Some dog breeds (pit bull terriers?) were bred specifically for this purpose. Unlike boxing bouts, where human contestants shuffle around waiting for an opening to inflict injury on their opponent, dogs just pile into each other and don't stop until one is killed or injured so badly that the other is declared the winner.
: So, 'dogfight' describes close combat involving a ferocious struggle between two individuals. The individuals may be dogs, magpies or war pilots.
The style of combat between planes in WWI was generally one-on-one, Allied against German, and it was perfectly sensible to call it a dogfight, since dogfights were well known and were one-on-one for the most part. The term was used in WWII for the same style of fighting. Birds don't fight that often and when they do don't use the same tactics. For a vivid account of dogfighting read Jack London. I think "White Fang" is the one to read, but try "The Call of the Wild" as well.