Friday, February 23, 2007

Who Knew?

This morning I read The Reliable Source in the Washington Post online for the first time in quite a while. Am I glad I did, otherwise I would have never known that the Washington, DC, elephant polo team, the Capitol Pachyderms, finished second in the Ceylon Elephant Polo Association's Taprobane Trophy Tournament in Sri Lanka last week. (Interesting that the assn. uses the colonial name "Ceylon," rather than Sri Lanka.) The winners were the Australian team, Tickle and the Ivories. As the Reliable Source observed, "Yes, that's right: elephant polo."

Well, I just had to learn more. According to the website of the World Elephant Polo Association:
Elephant polo was first played in India around the turn of the 20th century, by members of the Maharaja’s Harem (Zenena) – to keep them busy [very busy, I'm sure!].... The first games were played with a soccer ball, but after finding that the elephants like to smash the balls [!], the soccer ball was replaced with a standard polo ball. The sticks are made of bamboo and have a standard polo mallet on the end. The length of the stick depends on the size of the elephant - anywhere from 5 to 12 feet.

Most of the rules of the games are based on horse polo, but ...there are some necessary additions - for instance, it is a penalty for an elephant to lie down in front of the goal line [well, duh]. Players are secured in rope harnesses, with a rope across their thighs and rope stirrups. The game will stop if a player's harness becomes too loose and there is a danger of the player falling off. Players have fallen off elephants only a few times in WEPA's 20-year history. [What a relief; it's a looong way down & players could be squashed like a bug.]

The primary difference between horse and elephant polo... is that the elephants are "driven" by their trainers, called "mahouts." ...The player's responsibility is to let the mahout know where to go, how fast, when to stop, etc. Most of the mahouts and all of the elephants only understand Nepali, so the communication is difficult at times. The professional players tend to learn some basics Nepali to help with the communication on the pitch. [Y'know, like when you learn some Spanish so you can tell the gardener what to do.]
So elephant polo is for sahibs only; no more bored ranis. Fittingly, the WEPA was hatched in a bar in St. Moritz, Switzerland, by two members of the exclusive Cresta Club for tobogganers.

Inquiring minds want to know when elephant polo will become an Olympic event. And whether the Capitol Pachyderms are, or will become, the official team of the GOP.
Photo courtesy of Tom Claytor

2 comments:

Susie said...

Nope...no political affiliations now and none for the future...we just like to play polo on elephants.

#88

Anonymous said...

They claim to be apolitical:
http://www.dcelephantpolo.com/politics.htm