Turkey is a sporting nation with the most popular being football. Other mainstream sports as volleyball and basketball have grown in popularity over the past few years as the Turkish government invests in its aim to get the nations people fit and active. Besides from the sports we are accustomed to seeing being played in the UK, Turkey holds some of its own unique sporting events.
This sport is very popular right across the country and is classes as an ‘ancestral sport’. As well as the highly esteemed styles of folk wrestling there is Olympic wrestling, Greco Roman wrestling and the famous Kirkpinar oil wrestling. This is often classed as the Turkish national sport, a competitive wrestling tournament, made more difficult by the fact that the combatants are smothered in oil. The competitors wear traditional black costumes and the event is held every year in June in a meadow just outside Edirne. Known as Kirkpinar, it literally means Forty Spring and is said to have been named after the forty Ottoman warriors who, in the 14th century, made the first crossing of the Dardanelles into Europe.
Also called Jereed this sport is a traditional equestrian team sport played outside on horseback with the objective being to score points by throwing pointed javelins at the opposing team. During the Ottoman period it became a popular war game demonstrating the bravery of its participants, with competitions held in the Hippodrome in Istanbul. Despite its popularity, it was banned in 1826 by Sultan Mahmut II, who considered it to be too dangerous. Although it was still played regularly until about 50 years ago, now it is only played in a few regions to mark ceremonial occasions, mostly those around Erzurum and Kars in the east of Turkey, although it can also still be seen in Konya, in central Anatolia, and a number of locations along the Aegean coast.
The province of Artvin holds a festival every year in which bullfighting plays a key part. The most interesting part of the festival is held on the third week of June every year. Bulls from all parts of the province are classified according to the thickness of their necks or weight, and pitted against one another. Certain rules have been applied since the bullfights first began in order to protect the bulls from injury and suffering. When the weaker bull withdraws from the arena, that defeat is accepted and it is taken out of the arena by the people in charge.
In this way, Kafkasor bullfights have become an atmosphere of sports and entertainment with their own rules. This type of bullfight is unique, and a defining characteristic of the whole region.