Camel wrestling in Turkey originated among the nomadic Turkic tribes more than 2,400 years ago. Today, Turkey's camel wrestling league holds more than 30 events, mostly in the Aegean region, during the season (November to March). The largest event is the annual Selcuk Camel Wrestling Festival held in the Unesco World Heritage area of Selcuk and Ephesus. The festival involves a parade and a camel beauty pageant and attracts more than 150 camel owners and more than 20,000 spectators.

The dromedary camels are bred and trained from a young age specifically for competition. Wrestling bouts typically last approximately 10 minutes, with handlers intervening to break the camels up if the bout turns too violent. The winner is determined when one of the camels either runs away or is wrestled to the ground. Traditionally, a female camel in heat was used to spur two male camels into fighting each other, but this made the camels too violent and difficult to control. Many animal rights organisations have criticised camel wrestling, deeming it cruel to animals.

Camel wrestling
Two camels fight during the Bergama camel wrestling competitionChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Two camels wrestle in the arenaChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Handlers try to calm their camel after it suffered a small mouth injury during a boutChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Spectators watch the action during the Bergama camel wrestling competitionChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Handlers jump in to break apart two camels during their wrestling matchChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Handlers jump in to break apart two wrestling camelsChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A camel waits to take part in a wrestling matchChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Handlers try to control a camel after a wrestling matchChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A handler looks after his camel in a stable as it is prepared for the camel paradeChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Men dress a camel up for the camel beauty pageant prior to the Selcuk camel wrestling festivalChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A camel is dressed up for the beauty pageant in SelcukChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A handler kisses his camel while he waits at Selcuk town square to take part in the camel paradeChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A handler walks his camel into the Selcuk town square to take part in the camel paradeChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Two men walk their camels past a petrol station on their way to the Selcuk town squareChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Camels are led past a restaurant for the camel parade as part of the Selcuk camel wrestling festivalChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A woman looks on during the camel beauty pageant in SelcukChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
Men dance in the street during the camel beauty pageant in SlecukChris McGrath/Getty Images
Camel wrestling
A handler stands with his camel behind a rack of sucuk (camel sausage) during the Bergama camel wrestling competitionChris McGrath/Getty Images

Wrestling camels are very valuable, and a successful fighter can fetch a price of more than $20,000 (around £14,000). The camels are treated like family members by many owners and although the wrestling sometimes gets violent the camels are generally not hurt during the bouts.

The events held on Sundays have become very popular with tourists and are seen as an authentic Turkish cultural experience. Camel wrestling is also one of the most popular forms of weekend entertainment for many Turkish residents in rural towns. Parties can go on well into the night with locals enjoying music and drinking the traditional raki.