Age old tradition: Camel Wrestling

Written by TR Editör

Camel wrestling bouts were organized in and around Tire during the rule of Mahmud II. The tradition continues today and points to a deep-seated culture.

Every winter, the lands from Balıkesir to İzmir, from Çanakkale to Antalya are brought to life with camel wrestling festivals. This colorful event starts the first week of December, and offers a unique cultural experience to spectators until the last week of March.



Nomadic Yörüks of the Taurus Mountains adopted camel wrestling from the caravans of the Silk Road, and enriched it by passing it down the generations to the present day. There are several hypotheses regarding the origins of camel wrestling in Western Anatolia. It might be that the first bouts were held in the Hıdırbeyli Village of the İncirliova County of Aydın in the 19th century. Another source points to bouts held in İzmir and the surrounding region towards the end of the 18th century. The chapter titled “The End of the Camels” in Münis Armağan’s book Interesting Events in the History of Western Anatolia notes that camel wrestling bouts were organized in and around Tire during the rule of Mahmud II. All this info aside, it is generally accepted that Anatolian camel wrestling dates back at least two centuries. Innumerable villages and towns in the Aegean and the Mediterranean regions of Anatolia wrestle camels in large open spaces near settlements. İzmir, Seçuk, İncirliova, Aydın, Muğla and Denizli in the Aegean; Balıkesir and Çanakkale in the North Aegean; Antalya, Burdur, and Isparta in the Mediterranean are all known as camel wrestling centers. One of the 10 official “Slow Cities” (Cittaslow) of Turkey, Yenipazar, makes its name not only by its natural and historical beauties, but a camel wrestling field as well.



Bouts take place between specially chosen male camels called “Tülü”s. A Tülü is an offspring of a single-humped dromedary female called “yoz” and two-humped Bactrian male called “buhur”. However, just being a Tülü does not a wrestling camel make. Several criteria ranging from the teeth to the age of the camel come into play. Wrestling camels, like horses, are chosen based on pedigree. It is important for wrestling Tülüs to come from a lineage of wrestling camels. Specially picked camels are prepared for wrestling by their expert trainers, “savran”s. The bouts are organized under four height and weight categories of “foot”, “middle”, “below head”, and “head”. The camels are called “pehlivan”s, just like their human counterparts. The bouts are announced by “cazgır”s. For a match to end, one camel must run, cry helplessly, or fall to the ground.



January 1st İncirliova, Bodrum, Zeytindağ (Bergama)


January 8th Bayramiç (Çanakkale), Germencik, Menemen, Sarayköy


January 15th Selçuk, Çanakkale, Yatağan


January 22th Selimiye Milas, Sultanhisar, Tire, Kumluca


January 29th Burhaniye (Balıkesir), Bağarası, Bayır, Demre, Pınarbaşı


February 5th Biga (Çanakkale), Yenipazar, Söke, Ödemiş


February 12th Milas, Edremit (Balıkesir), Bergama (İzmir), Umurbey (Çanakkale), Kuyucak


February 18th Nazilli, Havran (Balıkesir), Çine


February 26th Çan, Poyracık, Denizli Merkez, Bozdoğan, Salihli, Torbalı


March 5th Ayvacık, Altınova, Bayraklı, Köşk


March 12th Çal Denizli, Aydın, Buldan, Ödemiş (Dernek)


March 19th Gönen, Ortaklar, Gökkaya


March 26th Yazıdere, Karapınar


About the author


TR Editör

Leave a Comment