Cockfighting has been banned in India since 1960 [Photo: Courtesy]

A rooster fitted with a three-inch knife for an illegal cockfight killed its owner as it tried to escape his grasp.

The bird was struggling to break free when the blade, strapped to one of its legs, slashed the 45-year-old man's groin before a fight in the village of Lothunur in India's southern Telangana state.

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The man died from blood loss as he was being rushed to a hospital. His death has sparked a police investigation and a hunt for at least 15 other people who were involved in the illegal cockfighting event last Tuesday. Officers seized the rooster and held it at a local police station for a day before transferring it to a poultry farm. A constable has been assigned to ensure that the rooster is properly taken care of, the New Indian Express reported.

Police told local media the knife was attached to one of the rooster's legs as it was being prepared for a fight on the grounds of a temple. The bird tried to escape and its owner tried to catch it, but was slashed with the blade during a struggle.

B Jeevan, a local police officer, said the rooster would be kept under police care and taken to court as evidence when the case progresses. The others involved in the event could face charges of manslaughter, illegal betting and hosting a cockfight. He added: "We are searching for the other 15 people involved in organising the illegal fight."

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Cockfighting has been banned in India since 1960, but gruesome fights are still common in rural areas such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha states. Many occur around the Hindu festival of Sankranti. Thousands of roosters die each year during the fights. Last year, a man died when his rooster's blade hit him in the neck as he carried the bird to a fight in the south-eastern state of Andhra Pradesh.