Spectators of camel wrestling must stay on their toes and be ready to flee—at any moment, a competitor might retreat into the stands, or spew a projectile of saliva or urine. (Fun fact: they are retromingent animals, which means that they urinate backwards.)

Bouts of the feisty sport, native to Turkey, take place between two bull (male) Tülu (hybrid) camels, traditionally riled up by the presence of a lady camel in heat nearby. A camel can win by forcing the opponent to retreat, scream, or fall, with different camels employing different tricks. If the owner is concerned for his camel’s safety, he can throw out a rope to declare a forfeit. 

Camel wrestling goes back 2,400 years, with an estimated 1,200 camel wrestlers today. Selçuk, a town along the country’s western coast, hosts the annual Camel Wrestling Championship every January. Before the competitions, the giant camels stroll through town, looking both artistic and regal in ornate outfits featuring careful needlework and crocheted muzzles. However, recently, the sport’s popularity has been on the decline.

One idea? Drop the wrestling and keep the camel beauty contest. Whatever you do, keep the crochet.

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