Camel wrestling championships is a purely Turkish feature, standing on par with Spanish bullfights, and Italian cockfights. Though animal rights' protectors are against such competitions, these are not violent and are actually based on natural instincts. The matches are held in winter, during camels' mating season. A pair of bulls are put in the middle of the rink and a pretty cow is paraded in front of them. Watching a female turns them on, it's visible at once from their white and thick saliva that covers their mouth and nostrils. Suddenly excited males become sheer rivals, and lock in a wrestle.
The bouts normally last for a few minutes until the stronger one wrestles the weaker down to the ground, or until the latter screams or just runs away into the crowd, so the onlookers should always be alert. Just in case something goes wrong, and both camels are too stubborn to give in, a group of assistants are always watching them nearby ready to separate wrestlers. It ensures that the animals come out safe and sound.
The tradition that originated thousands of years ago is nowadays considered declining, for only the wealthy can afford to keep, feed, and train camels exclusively for wrestling competitions. Some time ago the phenomenon was widespread over the entire Anatolian region of Turkey, and today it's mainly restricted to the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. Still, you can watch the millennial tradition in a range of championships—a so-called Camel Wrestling League begins in mid- to late December and continues through March.
Matches are held in different locations but the most popular one is Selçuk found in Izmir Province. It gathers the audience of about 20,000 individuals and is renowned as Turkey's most visited camel wrestling festival. More host towns and villages are found mainly in the provinces of Aydın, Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Denizli, Antalya, Konya and others. Some but not all of them are marked on the map below.