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CAMEL WRESTLING

camel2_s.jpg (13189 bytes)The physical and psychological changes observed in certain months of the year in the male camel, an animal bred for its wool, milk, skin and meat in many parts of the world, has led to the organisation of camel wrestling events. Camel wrestling, which takes place in the western region of Turkey in an area extending from Çanakkale to Antalya is part and parcel of the rich texture of our national traditions.

The breed of camel known as tülü, which is the one used for wrestling, is obtained by crossing two other breeds, both of which are dromedaries. The hair of the latter is comparatively long. Camels. which are dromedaries. The hair of the latter is comparatively long. Camels, which are self-sacrifing creatures, have given rise to such saying as He’s not a camel to get his throat cut in seven places, and are also known for the grudges they harbour. When camels are angry they spit, kick and buck. Male camels have slimy pouches filled with air on either side of their mouths. In the cold winter months, which is also the mating season, there is jealousy as well as anger. Rival males who are trying to engage the attention of a female begin to quarrel. This is when man, who is keen on getting animals to fight, takes advantage of the seasonal changes he observes in the male camel and encourages them to fight each other. The people of Anatolia, who set bulls and cockerels, rams and billy-goats to fight each other, created a different tradition in the area they lived in with camel wrestling. Camel wrestling events are still a colorful feature of life in the Çanakkale, Balıkesir, İzmir, Manisa and Aydın provinces of the country. Most of these events, at which the camels are introduced by name and a list of their past successes and championships read out, take place in the months of December and February. There is real communication between the spectators and the camels they are watching so closely. The camel encourages the spectator and the spectator encourages the camel.

camel3_s.jpg (13926 bytes)The tülü camels, which do not usually work as beasts of burden and bear certain hereditary wrestler characteristics are brought to the ring with a great deal of pomp and ceremony, sumptuously caparisoned with a great deal of local ornamentation. Infinite pains have been taken to dress each camel like a bridgegroom. Some of them show off fine examples of Anatolian metalwork, others proudly display bells that are family heirlooms. There are some whose chests swell with pride at the effect produced by the mirrors sewn to their blankets . Then a female camel is brought to the arena to arose the males and make them even more aggressive. Here, as everywhere else, it is the female that initiates the first movement.

camel4_s.jpg (14002 bytes)Various rules were introduced to camel wrestling in the course of time. First there was a panel of judges who matched the camels against each other with their past victories, wrestling technique and weight in mind, in other words, several categories were created created. These judges were also authorised to separate the camels if necessary and to decide which was the winner. They are also responsible for preventing the victor from hurting or trampling on his defeated rival. From time to time the referee announces the camels, giving their nicknames, telling their life stories and encouraging the spectators.

Then there are the rope-holders. These men hold restraining ropes in their hands, thus preventing the camels from harming spectators and, when necessary separating the camels. A number of bets are placed by spectators in the days leading up to the event and this reaches a peak just before the bout begins. The camels are walked are around the paddock, then taken into the ring. The rivals then prance round trying to provoke each other then finally plunge forward and are locked in combat, grunting and foaming at the mouth. They are muzzled so that they will not bite each other. Trained camel1.jpg (9976 bytes)camels know a number of moves such as how to trip their rival, how to force his submission, how to throw him to the ground by pushing their head between his legs, how to force him to his knees by means of head and neck power. Sayings such as as daft as a camel have no foundation, for camels are extremely intelligent creatures and their necks endow them with unexpected subtlety. It is quite exiting to watch how they make use of this subtlety. during the wrestling bout. The defeated camel is the one whose back touches the ground when he falls, who flees from the ring the ring, or who fails to continue the fight when he has risen after a fall. When camels are wrestling they are also putting on a display for the benefit of spectators. This is why camels who have a showy style, who know how to please their public, enjoy the same fame as boxers.

The camels at the Seljuk Camel Wrestling Event used to wrestle in the ancient amphitheatre at Ephesus until this was recently prohibited. Just think of two camels wrestling on the stage of an amphitheatre accommodating 25.000 spectators where Elektra is also performed.