Elephant Polo, Beetle Fights, and Horseracing


In honour of the British Horseracing Authority’s decision to further restrict whip use, we take a look at animals in sport.

The debate over whether or not jockeys should be allowed to carry whips is nothing new, and, as it turns out, England is pretty much the strictest when it comes to anti-animal cruelty laws in horseracing. There are surely some anti-cruelty activists who would like to see the sport thrown out altogether, but, for most equine-loving racing fans, the guidelines outlined by the British Horseracing Authority’s latest report will be naught but another challenge for jockeys to overcome.

Horses, however, aren’t the only animals that have been dragged into human sport for the sake of competition, and they arguably haven’t fared the worst. Read on to learn about some other sports involving animals for some extra background information as you consider the BHA’s latest decree:

Polo, elephant polo, and jousting – Polo is undoubtedly the most popular of these three, but did you know that the sport’s been played on elephants in Nepal? Jousting is perhaps polo’s medieval cousin and consists of two riders on horseback trying to knock each other out of the saddle.

Cockfighting – A cockfight is exactly what it sounds like, and then some; two Gemcocks (specially bred male chickens) enter a ring and fight to the death. Although an ancient practice, the tradition of cockfighting is almost universally considered cruel and therefore forbidden in many places, but there are still rumoured to be a large number of underground clubs all over the world in countries where the sport is illegal but still popular. There are thousands of variations on the animal fighting practice involving many different species from the animal kingdom: insects (beetles, crickets, and spiders, to name a few), dogs (notably pit bulls), and even camels (camel fighting consists of two male camels battling each other in response to being presented with a female camel in heat).

Bull chasing/fighting – Bull fights are significantly different from cockfights in that competition is limited to man vs. animal, rather than animal vs. animal, although both types of fights typically end with at least one casualty and, oftentimes, a number of serious injuries sustained by all parties involved.

Rodeos – Often associated with the American cowboy tradition, rodeos are bovine contests; many events are essentially obstacle courses for bull and rider. The eight-second bronco buck is a crowd favourite and involves a rodeo clown specifically dispatched to taunt an agitated bull as a second person attempts to stay upright on its back for a full eight seconds.

Although we certainly don’t recommend participating in most of these sports – and do not necessarily condone the actions of those who do – it’s hard to deny that we do find many of them fascinating – and useful. The next time you’re seated next to an animal activist at a dinner party who won’t stop blathering on about the cruelties of horseracing, at least you will be able to change the subject!

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