Turkey’s annual Selcuk camel fighting championship was hoping to draw spectators from an increasingly modern population and keep the struggling sport relevant with the addition of a beauty pageant, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Chariot, a 1,500-pound, single-humped camel with spittle hanging from his lips and pompons in his tail, recently won the first-ever beauty contest at Turkey’s prized camel fighting competition.
According to the pageant’s four stony-faced judges, Chariot had better muscle tone, prettier adornments and a more elegant tail wag as he strutted along a catwalk of rugs to the sound of Turkish pipes and drums last weekend. Plus, they said, he had exceptionally good teeth.
While Turkish fighting camels might be even bigger and hairier than their Arab cousins, to their fans, they are beauty incarnate. "Camels are very sophisticated and realize people are watching them, so they’re trying to pose," said Necidet Durmaz, one of the judges in the western town of Selcuk and a jeweler by trade. "Some camels will stop, open their back legs and wave their tail or cock their head back and moan — this is the kind of posing we are looking for."
Ismail Egilmez, who bought Chariot just weeks ago for 35,000 Turkish lira ($22,600), was thrilled. "I love this camel as much as I love my family, more maybe. Look how beautiful he is," said the 35-year-old professional camel trainer.
The Selcuk championship is the highlight of Turkey’s camel fighting calendar, when some 20,000 visitors descend on the town to watch the animals rumble.
Recently, there was a popular trend for naming camels after political leaders. Four years ago at Selcuk, George Bush fought Saddam Hussein. They tied.
Camel beauty pageants are a fixture in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, though they are typically held alongside competitive camel racing rather than fighting.
They are also big business. Last year, in the United Arab Emirates, one camel sold for $2.7 million, and one entrant in a beauty contest of 10,000 camels took home $10 million.