A game played between two teams of players riding horses, who hit a small ball with long-handled wooden hammers.
- The Longman Web Dictionary definition of 'polo'.
On horseback this can amount to sheer lunacy... substitute 'horse' for 'elephant' and you have a spectacular game indeed.
The World Elephant Polo Association established the governing rules for Elephant Polo in 1982, the association has its headquarters at the Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge in Royal Chitwan National Park, Nepal, which is where the World Elephant Polo Tournament is played every year on a grass airfield in Megauly. The year 2001 saw the launch of two new competitions, one in Thailand, in the form of the King's Cup Elephant Polo tournament held at the Anantara Resort in September, and the other in Sri Lanka in the form of a beach elephant polo tournament known as the Ceylon Elephant Polo Association Championship held on the beach of Taprobane Island in February.
Organisation of the Game
The game is played by four players on each team on a marked pitch of 120 metres by 70 metres using a standard size polo ball1.
Play consists of two 10-minute chukkas of playing time, with an interval of 15 minutes. The whistle blown by the referee stops and starts the play.
The pitch is marked with a centre line; a circle with a radius of 10 metres in the centre of the field. A semi-circle, in front of the goals, with a radius of 20 metres, measured from the centre of the goal line at either end of the pitch will form the 'D'.
Elephants and ends are changed at half time.
To be a goal, the ball must travel over and across the goal line.
The rules are similar to that of horse polo but some key points to note are that the elephants will have a player and a driver2, that ladies are allowed to use both hands, and elongated sticks over two metres in length are used.
Additionally there are elephant-specific rules:
Any team having more than three elephants in one half of the pitch is judged to have committed a foul.
There are no restrictions as to the height, weight or sex of the elephants.
No elephants may lie down in front of the goal mouth. To do so will constitute a foul. A free hit is awarded to the opposing side from the 30 metre semi-circle in front of the goal.
An elephant may not pick up the ball in its trunk during play. To do so constitutes a foul and a free hit is awarded to the opposing team from the spot where the ball was picked up. The defending players must be 15 metres from the spot.
So, if you're holidaying in the jungle this summer, why not sneak over to the nearest pitch? All you have to do then is find yourself a good long mallet, a healthy elephant and all the psychotic enthusiasm you can muster.