Bullfighting and Oil Wrestling in the Kaçkar Mountains of Turkey

That’s some serious bull!

Along with the melting of the snow, the green pastures of the yayla (high pastures) bring a sense of excitement to the isolated people of the Kaçkar mountains.  It is a time for picnics and festivals.  In Artvin, nestled high over the Çoruh River, the end of June, beginning of July is the Kafkisor or Bullfighting festival.

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

Kafkisor is more than just bullfighting.  There are folk dances, food and game stalls, and as the bulls are being registered, the day starts off with another Turkish sport, oil wrestling.  This is not the big oil wrestling competition, and in fact, these are not even the big name competitors.  In Artvin, on this hot afternoon, it is the boys that will hopefully be the big names one day.

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

The boys line up, stretch their muscles, and begin a series of calisthenics to ready the for their match.  They are paired, and the match begins.  Wiry, athletic, and fast it is surprising how quickly one of the wrestlers finds himself in a compromising position.  The boys are fun to watch, and it does warm up the crowd as their sons, nephews, and brothers take to the ring.

After the boys receive their ribbons in a short ceremony, it’s time for the bulls!

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

Turkish bullfighting is not the same as a Spanish bullfight where the bull dies by the sword after a valiant fight.  Instead it is a match of testosterone, using the bull’s instinct to attract the females.  It is very similar to how the Turks conduct their camel wrestling festivals in the wintertime.

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

The “fight” is primarily intimidation, just as it would be if they were still wild animals.  They meet in the ring, size each other up and then push with their heads until one of them leaves the ring.  The bull standing strong unfortunately does not win the female, but a ribbon and his owner bragging rights.

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

The Kafkisor festival is typically scheduled for the third weekend in June, and the bullfighting is always on the Sunday.  However, when we went, it was pushed back until the first weekend in July.  I would suggest asking before booking your accommodation which weekend it is that year so you are not disappointed.

Bullfighting Oil Wrestling

What types of cultural festivals have you attended?  Tell us about them in the comment section.

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Bullfighting in Turkey

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12 thoughts on “Bullfighting and Oil Wrestling in the Kaçkar Mountains of Turkey”

  1. Had no idea that Turkish bull fighting even existed! Like this form much more than the Spanish one. But I feel kind of bad for the winner afterwards. He’s like “Hey, I don’t get it. What’s this ribbon thing hanging from my horn?? I don’t want this. I was told there’d be chicks here…”

  2. Unfortunately, the cultural events I’ve been to have not been as exciting as this. You definitely live an interesting life, Corinne!

    Wonder why we’re so fascinated with fighting animals, though these bulls don’t sound like they’re really fighting, just facing off. Guess it’s more humane than Spanish bullfighting though I’d still like to experience it.

    1. Marcia, I can only speak for myself and say that I just love taking a glimpse and experiencing what other cultures find fascinating. I went to the bullfights once, but I don’t think I would go a second time or become a lifelong fan.

  3. Sounds better than the Spanish Bull Fights. I would like to visit for sure. Love the close up of locked horns. I don’t think it is fair he doesn’t win the girl. :)

  4. Oh whew I’m glad Turkish bullfighting is different because I passionately loathe Spanish bullfighting, Corinne! The oil wrestling would be fun to watch albeit I prefer it was women :)

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