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.
Technicalities of the Game
THE HEALTH AND WELFARE OF THE ELEPHANTS USED IN TOURNAMENTS IS OF PRIME CONCERN, AND ABUSE OF AN ELEPHANT IS CONSIDERED TO BE THE MOST SERIOUS OFFENCE.