Every third Sunday in January, the annual Camel Wrestling Championship is held in Selcuk, Turkey. The event is the culmination of months of matches that surround the sport of camel wrestling -- a tradition that traces its origins to ancient Turkic tribes over 2,400 years ago. Essentially, the sport puts together two bull (male) camels with a female camel. In response to the female camel being in heat, the two males battle it out by leaning on each other in order to push the other one down. If a male camel retreats, falls or screams, it loses.
It is estimated that there are 1,200 camel wrestlers (or Tulu) in Turkey, bred specially for competition. Contest organizers match the camels based not only on weight, but skills as well. There are camels that fight from the right and ones that fight from the left. There are ones that use foot tricks and ones that trap an opponent's head and sit on it. Some simply try to push the other out and make it retreat.
There is much preparation that leads up to the actual battle. The day before an event, a ceremony is held where the camels are decorated and marched through town, accompanied by music. It's a celebration that can come off as rather uninteresting to the average person. But for the many locals who do enjoy this spectator sport, excitement comes in the form of pure comedy when innocent bystanders run to avoid an angered camel running their way. According to Turkic tour guide, Burak Sansal, it's the best part of camel wrestling.
Because of rising costs to train and feed the camels, the sport is in heavy decline. Large bets and wagers are made mostly by owners and wealthy onlookers. According to Sansal, how you tell just which camel won can be difficult to determine. And while sometimes both camels run away, so do the people who come to watch.
What was once a widespread Turkic tradition, is now somewhat of a dying sport. Check out the fighters from the 2012 competition below: