Camel Wrestling in Turkey
Camel wrestling is not as violent or blood thirsty as one might think. It is also a sport that only takes place once a year which makes it an event that is generally highly anticipated. Camels and their owners train for the annual Camel Wrestling Festival, held in Selcuk, for months in advance, making the bond between camel and owner extremely close and affectionate.
How does one get these gentle animals motivated enough to wrestle and participate in this Turkish activity? You parade a beautiful female around till the saliva drips from the males’ nose and mouth and you coincide the festival with breeding season. This ensures that the two bulls will battle it out for dominance. And if you are instinctively anticipating a fast moving, aggressive battle you would be wrong. Camels prefer the art of persuasion above that of fierce combat. They do bump each other around at times but it is mostly a lengthy test of endurance and strength. The two contestants will lean against each other, shoulder-to-shoulder, and push against each other. It can be described as a one on one rugby scrum. The first camel to be pushed over or to give way loses the match. Most of the action usually occurs when the winning bull chases the loser just to confirm his victory. Trained camels will sometimes hook their opponents’ front leg and pull it out from underneath them causing their opponent to fall over. There are very few injuries sustained during the match and most camels walk away unscathed. Just as a precautionary measure, and to eliminate foul play, camels are muzzled before a match to ensure that they cannot bite each other. The winning owner receives a blanket as a prize.
Camels that are used for wrestling are known as TÜLÜ camels. They are a cross breed that have longer hair and are able to grow bulkier then their counterparts. In the months before the festival these camels are not used for work related chores or any activities. They are pampered by their owners and trained. The relationship during these months becomes so intense that most camels will only obey their owners and the bond of love between them is easy to see. Owners take extremely good care of their camels and show them off with pride. Camel wrestling has become an exclusive sport that only the wealthy can afford. The entrance fees into the matches are high and the cost to maintain the camels and travelling fees to the events are far beyond the reach of the middle and lower classes.
But as long as there are Turkish locals that can afford to wrestle their camels there will be thousands of spectators that flock to this annual event. Most of the spectators around the arena vote camel wrestling as the favourite amongst sports that involve animals. This is because of the low risk of injury and hours of entertainment.