Thailand - King's Cup Elephant Polo!

Elephant Polo

 

Possibly the most unique sporting event in Thailand, if not in the world, is the The

King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament held annually in the scenic coastal town of Hua

Hin, about two and a half hours drive outside Bangkok.  I have been coming to

Thailand for a number of years and have always just missed making it to the event

but this time was fortunate enough to be invited by the hosting Anantara Hotels. 

Hua HIn

 

Traditional Thai Dancers

The event kicked off on August 28th in Hua Hin with great fanfare having an opening

procession including beautiful traditional Thai dancers, beauty queens and a parade

of the competing elephants.

 

Brief History

After the teakwood industry in the north modernized, elephants were no longer

needed to haul the giant trees to the mills. So their owners called "mahouts",

brought them to Bangkok to beg for food.  It was very stressful in such a bustling

city for these gentle creatures to be walking in the noise and traffic.

  

Anantara Resort, Hua Hin

IN 2001 The Anantara Hotels launched the very first Elephant Polo Cup and today

the Anantara Resort is still the main sponsor and organizer.  All of the proceeds

go to the care of elephants throughout Thailand and keep them off the streets

of Bangkok and in their natural surroundings.

Anantara Resort, Hua Hin

Anantara Resort, Hua Hin

In 2006 the tournament moved to the Golden Triangle in the north near the city of

Chiang Mai still hosted by the same company.  After a few years the event returned

Hua Hin.  This unique event is one of the biggest, in many ways, and the most 

popular tourist attraction in Hua Hin.

 

Elephant Polo

Elephant polo is similar to horse polo. An elephant team is compromised of

three players. The game takes place on a pitch of 100 metres by 60 metres. The

players use a standard size polo ball, but the mallets are extra long. The game is

divided into 7 “chukkas” same as the horse polo. The elephants are not allowed to

touch the ball with their trunks, but often it looks like they do. It seems like they

want to help the players.

 

Only female elephants are used on the pitch, as a mixture of males and females can

cause big problems. 

 

Each elephant two riders, a driver and the player who concentrates on hitting the

ball. After the match, the elephants are fed with all kind of fruits, vegetables, 

sugarcanes and vitamins. The drivers are often offered a cold beer and the players 

mostly enjoy chilled champagne.

William Heinecke, 2nd from right, founder of The Minor Group, and friends

The Winners Trophy

Winning Team, Bank of Bangkok

This year, as many as 16 teams were competing. 40 different nationalities were

represented. Among the guests you could hear many languages such as German,

Swedish, Swiss and French.

 

Feature and Photography - Daniel Herron Copyright 2013

Anantara Resort, Hau Hin photography - Courtesy of Anantara Hotels 

For further information on elephant polo visit Anantaraelephantpolo

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