Cockpit Country

Cockpit Country is an area in Trelawny and Saint Elizabeth, Saint James, Saint Ann, Manchester and the northern tip of Clarendon parishes in Jamaica. The land is marked by steep-sided hollows, as much as 120 metres (390 ft) deep in places, which are separated by conical hills and ridges. Maroons who had escaped from plantations used the difficult territory for its natural defenses to develop communities outside the control of Spanish or British colonists.

Cockpit Country
Geographical Region
Cockpit Country.jpg
Cockpit Country is located in Jamaica
Cockpit Country
Cockpit Country
Coordinates: 18°17′43″N 77°41′43″W / 18.295209°N 77.695313°W / 18.295209; -77.695313
Named forTopology reminiscent of the shape of cock fighting dens.
Time zoneUTC-5 (EST)


In the late seventeenth century, the Cockpit Country was a place of refuge for Jamaican Maroons fleeing slavery. During the course of the First Maroon War, there were two Leeward Maroon communities - Cudjoe's Town (Trelawny Town) and Accompong Town. Cudjoe's Town was located in the mountains in the southern extremities of Saint James Parish, Jamaica, close to the border of Westmoreland Parish. Accompong is situated just to the south of Cudjoe's Town, on the border between Westmoreland and Saint Elizabeth Parish.[1]

When the Leeward Maroons signed a peace treaty in 1740, they assisted the colonial authorities in pursuing runaway slaves who sought refuge in the Cockpit Country. However, these runaways allied with Trelawny Town during the Second Maroon War. When the Maroons of Trelawny Town were deported in 1796, the Maroons of Accompong had difficulty policing the Cockpit Country, and several communities of runaway slaves established themselves there. After the removal of the Trelawny Maroons, the colonial militia built a barracks at their village, which they renamed Maroon Town, Jamaica.[2]

At the start of the nineteenth century, Cuffee (Jamaica) established a community of runaway slaves in the Cockpit Country, and resisted attempts by the colonial authorities and the Maroons of Accompong Town to rout them. Then, in the second and third decades of the century, another group of runaway slaves from Trelawny Parish set up a community in the Cockpit Country at Me-no-Sen-You-no-Come. They also succeeded in resisting attempts by the colonial militias and Accompong Town to rout them. During the Baptist War of 1831–2, more slaves ran away and found freedom in the Cockpit Country.[3]

Accompong Town is an indigenous Maroon community that still has a certain recognized autonomy under the independent Jamaican government.


On the north, the main defining feature is the fault-based "Escarpment", a long ridge that extends from Flagstaff in the west, through Windsor in the centre, to Campbells and the start of the Barbecue Bottom Road (B10). The Barbecue Bottom Road, which runs north–south, high along the side of a deep, fault-based valley in the east, is the only drivable route across the Cockpit Country. Walkers and riders can use two old, historical trails cross further west, the Troy Trail, and the Quick Step Trail. As of 2006 they are seldom used and difficult to find.

In the southwest, near Quick Step, is the district known as the "Land of Look Behind." It was so named because Spanish horsemen venturing into this region of hostile escaped slaves were said to have ridden two to a mount, one rider facing to the rear to keep a precautionary watch against ambush.

Where the ridges between sinkholes in the plateau area have dissolved, flat-bottomed basins or valleys have been formed that are filled with terra rosa soils, some of the most productive on the island. The largest basin is the Vale of Clarendon, 80 kilometres (50 mi) long and 32 kilometres (20 mi) wide. Queen of Spains Valley, Nassau Valley, and Cave Valley were formed by the same process.

Shallow caves, known locally as cockpits, are particularly common around the hamlet of Quick Step, reaching a density of 15 per km2.[4] Noteworthy caves include Marta Tick Cave[5] and Minocal's Glory Hole.[6] Ecotourism has been proposed for the hamlet of Quick Step, at the end of the road into the heart of Cockpit County.[7]


The Cockpit Country is Jamaica's largest remaining contiguous rainforest. In 1979 an unpublished paper proposed preserving the area as a National Park.[8] In 1994 the geographer Alan Eyre[9] proposed that the Cockpit Country be designated as a World Heritage Site to preserve its environment. A petition for protection of the area was submitted to Prime Minister Bruce Golding in 2006.

As of April 2013, public consultations have begun on the definition of the boundary proposed in a recently released study by Mitchell, Miller, Ganapathy, and Spence of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Eleutherodactylus sisyphodemus, a small, critically endangered frog species, is known only from the Cockpit Country.[10][11] Cockpit Country hosts 90% of the global population of black-billed amazon, a parrot endemic to Jamaica.[12]

Cockpit Country is also home to the Jamaican swallowtail, the largest butterfly in the Western Hemisphere. Cockpit Country is one of the last remaining homes for the species.

Cockpit Country Forest ReserveEdit

Cockpit Country Forest Reserve was designated in 1950, and covers an area of 221.75 km².[13]

See alsoEdit

Geography of Jamaica


  1. ^ Siva, Michael (2018). After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739-1842 (PDF) (PhD). Southampton: Southampton University.
  2. ^ Siva, Michael (2018). After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739-1842 (PDF) (PhD). Southampton: Southampton University.
  3. ^ Siva, Michael (2018). After the Treaties: A Social, Economic and Demographic History of Maroon Society in Jamaica, 1739-1842 (PDF) (PhD). Southampton: Southampton University.
  4. ^ Jamaica Underground: The Caves, Sinkholes and Underground Rivers of the Island, by Alan Fincham (page 31).
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Cotterell "The Proposed Development of the Cockpit Country." Unpublished. NRCD, Kingston, Jamaica. 1979.
  9. ^ Eyre, Slow Death of a Tropical Rainforest: The Cockpit Country of Jamaica, West Indies, 1994
  10. ^ Hedges, B.; Koenig, S. & Wilson, B. (2004). "Eleutherodactylus sisyphodemus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2004: e.T7148A12831445. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T7148A12831445.en. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  11. ^ Frost, Darrel R. (2015). "Eleutherodactylus sisyphodemus Crombie, 1977". Amphibian Species of the World: an Online Reference. Version 6.0. American Museum of Natural History. Retrieved 18 April 2015.
  12. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Amazona agilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  13. ^ UNEP-WCMC (2020). Protected Area Profile for Cockpit Country from the World Database of Protected Areas, December 2020. Accessed 31 December 2020. Available at:

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 18°17′43″N 77°41′43″W / 18.2952094°N 77.6953125°W / 18.2952094; -77.6953125