Camel wrestling

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Fighting Camels, Mughal India, c. 1680. Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris.

Camel wrestling (Turkish deve güreşi) is a sport in which two male Tülü camels wrestle, typically 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 practiced in other parts of the Middle East and South Asia.


Camel fighting originated among ancient Turkic tribes over 2,400 years ago.[1][2] Camels also wrestle in the wild, so the practice occurred before it was first organized by nomads.[3] In the 1920s the Turkish National Aviation league has held Camel fights as fundraisers in order to purchase planes for the Government of Turkey.[4] The government of Turkey began discouraging the practice in the 1920s, however, characterizing it as too backwards of a practice. In the 1980s the new government of Turkey began encouraging the competitions as part of Turkey's historic culture.[5] Camel wrestling was also a popular event at the Lahore Horse and Cattle show, but it was excluded from the program during the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1961 as it was deemed "too fierce" for the Queen.[6]

Event details[edit]

Due to the motivating factor of a nearby female camel, the events have historically been held during mating season.[3] The camels fight by using their necks as leverage to force their opponent to fall down. A camel is declared the winner if his competitor falls to the ground or flees from the fight.[7] Most fighting camels are bred in Iran or Afghanistan.[3][8]

As of 2011, there are an estimated 2,000 wrestling (or Tulu) camels in Turkey, bred specially for the competitions.[1] A successful camel can be sold for over $20,000.[7]

The events can occasionally be hazardous to spectators if the camels attempt to flee through the crowd.[8] On some occasions fights also break out between the owners of camels.[9]

There are roughly thirty annual festivals in Aegean Turkey each year from November to March. Roughly one hundred fighting camels take part in these events, with each camel competing in approximately ten matches. Events always occur on Sundays in football stadiums and typically last ten minutes each.[3][9] At the end of the season there is often a tournament of champions in which the best camels compete.[3] Many international tourists attend the events, making them a key part of the tourist industry in Western Anatolia. Many tourists are drawn to the events because they are seen as an authentic part of Turkish culture.[10] In addition to the tourism value, camel wrestling is one of the most popular forms of entertainment among rural villagers in western Turkey.[11]

Several animal rights organizations have criticized the practice, characterizing it as cruelty to animals.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Christie-Miller, Alexander (27 January 2011). "Turkey: Tradition of Camel Wrestling Making a Comeback". EurasiaNet. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  2. ^ Kinzer, Stephen (19 January 2000). "Selcuk Journal; In These Prizefights, Camels Wrestle for Carpets". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Dogu, Evin (2009). Caroline Trefler, ed. Fodor's Turkey (7 ed.). New York: Fodor's. p. 242. ISBN 978-1-4000-0815-5. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  4. ^ "Camels, Lords of Dying Race, to Fight it Out at Stambol". The Miami News. Associated Press. 29 January 1929. p. J30. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  5. ^ a b Parkinson, Joe (22 January 2011). "What's a Bigger Draw Than a Camel Fight? A Camel Beauty Contest, of Course". Wall Street Journal. p. A1. Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  6. ^ "Camel Fighting 'too fierce' for the Queen". The Evening Times. Glasgow, Scotland. 11 February 1961. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
  7. ^ a b Whiting, Dominic (2000). Turkey Handbook. London: Footprint. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-900949-85-9. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Fethiye Times Meets a Camel!". Fethiye Times. 9 February 2011. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Getting the Hump - Camel Wrestling Season Now in Full Swing". Fethiye Times. 28 January 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  10. ^ Vedat, Çalışkan (2010). "Examining cultural tourism attractions for foreign visitors: The case of camel wrestling in Selçuk Ephesus". Turizam. 14 (1): 22–40. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
  11. ^ Vedat, Çalışkan (2009). "Geography of a Hidden Cultural Heritage: Camel Wrestles in Western Anatolia". Journal of International Social Research. 2 (8): 123–137. ISSN 1307-9581. Retrieved 17 February 2011.