Almost everyone knows what polo is, but how many have heard of elephant polo or that an elephant polo tournament takes place annually in Thailand? In addition, who could have imagined that two American teams not only participate in this unique venue, but also rank among the leading all amateur teams competing in this Thai tournament?
The Elephant Story, a Comfort, Texas-based retail store that promotes elephant conservation in Asian elephant countries, actually sponsors these two American family teams – The Elephant Story and Sara Story Design – in this year’s King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, which takes place in the seaside town Hua Hin, Thailand. The event will be held from August 28 to September 1, 2013 marking the twelfth anniversary of the King’s Cup. It extends over five days, and attracts a crowd of up to 5,000 people for its opening parade and throughout its duration. Elephants, a key symbol of Thailand’s history, are given the utmost respect in that country. The tournament was designed to raise funds to ensure elephant welfare, sustenance, employment, and medical treatment. It has raised more than $600,000, with the amount of donations increasing annually.
Of the 12 teams competing in the tournament, the Story family sponsors the two American teams with Thai friends added as players to fill out the rosters. The top winning elephant polo teams are usually composed of horse polo professionals, while the other teams are made up of amateur elephant polo players. Consistently among the most highly ranked amateur teams, Sara Story Design placed third out of the twelve teams two years ago, while, last year, The Elephant Story team placed fourth out of twelve.
Facts about Elephant Polo
- Each team is comprised of three elephants. The elephants are ridden by the mahout (the elephant trainer and often owner) and the polo player. The mahout directs the elephant following the guidance of the player who attempts to hit a standard size polo ball with a polo mallet up to twice the length of a horse polo mallet. The size of the elephant polo mallet depends on the height of the elephant reaching up to 100 inches in length.
- The game is divided into two seven-minute “chukkas,” or halves. The whistle blown by the referee controls the play – starting and stopping the action. The teams exchange elephants after the first chukka. Typically, each match will last approximately one hour.
- Each team receives one point for a successful goal.
The Elephant Story is owned by Ed and Joey Story. It was opened in 2012 to promote elephant conservation in Asian elephant countries, most notably Thailand. The store’s objective is to increase the awareness of the plight of what has become an endangered species due to the ongoing deforestation prevalent in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Various elephant conservation groups focus on removing elephants from being exploited in the streets of major cities and returning them to a more natural habitat. In conjunction with this effort, The Elephant Story net profits go to various Asian elephant support foundations. While generating funding for elephant conservation, The Elephant Story also supports indigenous crafts and textile groups in Asian elephant countries by providing a market for their goods. Visit The Elephant Story online at www.the-elephant-story.com. The store is located at 723 High Street in Comfort, TX, 78013.