An annual elephant polo tournament in Thailand kicked off on Wednesday with players from around the world displaying their skills in the unusual sport. Players from 15 countries, including the United States, Great Britain and Germany joined the tournament in the northern province of Chiang Rai, north of Bangkok.
The event started with a parade of traditional dancers, while players from 12 teams, riding high on the elephants, entered the pitch carrying their national flags.
While regular polo is exciting enough, the slower paced elephant polo is a more accessible game.
[Christopher Stafford, Elephant Polo Assoc. President]: (English)
“Well the horses are very fast but there is, in my opinion, there is a lot of technique in elephant polo which makes it a very interesting game. What you will see in elephant polo is men can play, women can play, and it's a very, children can play even.”
The tournament makes no restrictions on the elephant's height, weight, or gender, but most of the pachyderms used are juveniles, about 15-years-old.
Each team has three players who ride on their elephants, tossing around a standard-sized polo ball.
The rules are generally similar to traditional polo and just as in the original sport, control of the animal is paramount. A foul is committed if an elephant lies in front of the goal post or picks up the ball with its trunk, earning the other team a free hit.
An elephant driver helps the players steer the jumbo animals.
Proceeds from the event will be donated to elephant welfare causes in Thailand, where the gentle giant is a national symbol.