The lumbering and stubborn Bactrian camel might not be an obvious contender in a polo match, but a Mongolian initiative to save the two-humped beasts is taking a traditional sport of the steppes and giving it a new twist.
Historical accounts abound of Mongolia’s larger-than-life conqueror, Genghis Khan, encouraging horseback polo matches to entertain and train his troops. The game, many Mongolians feel, is as prominent a part of their nation’s history as the feared Khan himself. But using domesticated Bactrian camels in the sport is something new entirely—an effort, say organizers of a March 9 polo tournament, to promote breeding the even-toed ungulate.
Oyunbaatar Tserendash, a member of parliament, started the Mongolian Camel Polo Federation in 2002. His son, federation director Temujiin Oyunbaatar, says his father founded the club to combine his love for camels and for polo (an elite sport in Mongolia these days), while in the process building a distinctly Mongolian brand.
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Pearly Jacob is a freelance journalist based in Ulaanbaatar.