CULTURE OR ABUSE?
The camels used in wrestling events are from the Tulu breed, which are bred specifically for competition.
While camel wrestling’s popularity has mostly developed and grown in Turkey – especially its Western coast – the majority of the camels are imported from Iran and Afghanistan.
The sport features two male camels clashing in bouts that normally last about 10 minutes.
As a nearby female camel is needed to get the males in the mood, the matches are usually held during mating season, from November to March.
While serious injuries or deaths are rare, some owners have been known to slaughter a defeated camel, with the meat being distributed to local villagers. Camel sausage is common in these regions, particularly during the festival season.
Animal rights groups in Turkey have long campaigned against the sport and what they consider the unethical treatment of the camels.
“Organizers say that physical violence is not an injury in camel wrestling, (but) there is psychological violence there,” Haytap, a Turkish animal rights organization, told epa-efe in a statement.
“Animals cannot be made to fight each other. We want camel wrestling to be stopped.”
Local authorities are more tolerant, however, with municipalities putting on the festivals and covering transportation and accommodation costs for the camels and their handlers, while the sport is legally protected as part of Turkey’s social and cultural heritage.