Camel wrestling is a sport in which two male Tulu camels wrestle in response to a female camel in heat being led before them. It is most common in the Aegean region of Turkey, but is also found in the Marmara and Mediterranean regions of that country. There are an estimated 1,200 wrestling camels in Turkey, bred specially for the competitions.
The day before each Championship is set aside for a parade through the town of Selcuk, with the animals dressed up in all their finery. Not all of the fighting camels will attend the parade however. In 2011 around 30 camels were on show on the Saturday, with around 100 taking part in the fighting. The most beautiful camel in 2011 was "Palavra", a camel with a particularly talented foaming mouth.
Held in an ancient stadium at Ephesus, 6 kilometers from the town of Selcuk, on the 3rd Sunday of January, the camel wrestling championships have drawn thousands of spectators annually. The festival usually highlights wrestling of 120- camels, but in 2001 only 96 were involved. The event puts together two bull (male) camels with a female camel on heat nearby. The camels fight it out for the female, leaning on each other to push the other down. A camel can win a wrestling match in three ways: By making the other camel retreat, scream, or fall. The owner of a camel may also throw a rope into the field to declare a forfeit if he is concerned for the safety of his animal. Camels wrestle with other in their same weight class. Camels have different tricks, and contest organizers match camels with different skills. Some camels wrestle from the right and some from the left; some trip the other with foot tricks ("cengelci"), and some trap their opponent's head under their chest and then try to sit ("bagei"); some push their rivals to make them retreat ("tekci"). The actual wrestling can be somewhat underwhelming to someone not familiar with the intricacies, although onlookers must often flee from an oncoming camel that is retreating in defeat from his opponent. In the heat of the tournament, camels spew foamy saliva in their excitement. Additionally, camels are retromingent animals, and so spectators would be advised to aware not only of flying saliva but of flying urine as well.
|One of the bands entertaining the crowds|
The event is famous for it's electric atmosphere, starting on the Saturday at the parade, and lasting long into the evening. Gypsy bands roam the center of Selcuk playing Zirna (like a cross between a clarinet and a recorder), Clarinet, and Davul (drum). The local men drink raki and dance energetically for many hours, only to wake up and head off to the main event early Sunday morning. You have to be early to get a good ringside seat, with many restaurants set up offering food and drinks to those willing to pay a little extra for the convenience. If you miss out though, you can join the thousands of spectators lining the hills which surround the ring, cooking barbecues and drinking more of the infamous raki. The gypsy bands don't miss out on all the action, and will spend the day roaming from group to group searching for tips and adding great tunes for the crowds to dance to.