Charity Jumbo History and Rules of Play

The Story Behind the Game

What started out as a whimsical conversation between two quirky sport lovers and philanthropists in the late 1990’s has evolved into one of the biggest annual charity events in Thailand. The King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament was first launched in the royal seaside town of Hua Hin by Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa in 2001.

Since the first tournament Anantara has rescued over 50 street elephants, 30 of which, now enjoy a comfortable lifestyle at Anantara Golden Triangle’s onsite Elephant Camp. However, the annual event allows a further 20 young elephants to be taken off the streets for the duration of the tournament, providing them with the best food possible, as well as the only proper veterinary check and vitamins they receive all year.

Street life can be brutal for an elephant, walking through crowded tourist areas and busy roads for ten hours a night, forced to rest during the day on small green spaces within the cities, often without shade and water. The King’s Cup schedule is deliberately designed to give these elephants rest and relaxation on a scale they are never afforded in their ‘normal’ lives.

Elephants are a proud cultural symbol of Thailand’s history. Nothing but the utmost respect is given to these pachyderms and all proceeds from the tournament are used to ensure a comfortable lifestyle, sustenance, medical treatment and employment, as well as mahout training.

Rules of Play

The rules are similar to those of horse polo, however there are some key differences which should be noted. All elephants carry a player and a mahout, ladies are allowed to use both hands and mallets of around two metres in length are used.

  • Due to the size of these great mammals, each team is made up of three players and their four-legged accomplice on a marked pitch of 100 metres by 60 metres using a standard size polo ball.
  • The game is divided into two 7 minute “chukkas”, or halves, of playing time with an interval of 15 minutes. The whistle blown by the referee stops and starts the play. Both elephants and playing pitch ends are changed after the first chukka.
  • The pitch is marked with a centre line, a circle with a radius of 10 metres in the centre of the field, and 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 which is referred to as the D.
  • The scoring system awards two points to a winning team and one point apiece to teams which draw.
  • Any team with three elephants in one half of the pitch is judged to have committed a foul
  • No more than two elephants may be in the D at one time – one from the attacking team and one from the defending team

Technicalities of the Game


  • No elephant may lie down in front of the goal mouth. To do so constitutes a foul. A free hit is awarded to the opposing side from the 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.
  • Teams are made up from the pool of elephants and balanced out as fairly as possible bearing in mind the size and speed of each elephant. Once the pool of elephants has been selected, each elephant is categorised and marked as A, B, C, D, E, F.
  • Sugar cane or rice balls packed with vitamins (molasses and rock salt) are given to the elephants at the end of each match.