In December 2005 The Duke of Argyll captained his team, Chivas Regal Scotland, to win the World Elephant Polo Championships for the second year running.
The World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) was formed in 1982 at Tiger Tops, Nepal, and has an enormous and growing following of fans and teams from all over the world. The Duke represents Scotland and competes three times a year against teams from Hong Kong, India, Iceland, Thailand, England, Nepal, Germany, USA, Australia and Sri Lanka.
Elephant Polo vs Polo on Horse Back
The rules of the game are similar to horse polo, although played at a much slower pace with four elephants on each side. Each elephant is 'driven' by an expert Mahout, which leaves the player to concentrate on the game (as well as trying to stay on the animal!). The smaller elephants are used for the attack positions as they are generally faster, while the slower and larger elephants are used to block and defend the goal. There is usually a giant elephant used for refereering and a number of vital helpers including the umpires, commentators and of course, the 'official pooper scoopers'.
Elephants at play
Surprisingly, the game is faster than one would expect, with extremely skilled stick and ball work (the sticks are made of bamboo and can range from 6 to 9 feet) and the elephant can often become more excited than the players. Most games have an incident which includes elephants running away with sticks, treading on balls (which can take minutes to dig out) and generally taking the game over amongst themselves. The rules are the same as horse polo, although have some necessary additions which include a penalty for elephants lying down over the goal and wandering off to eat bamboo shoots - none of which is helped by the fact the elephants don't understand English!
The Duke is a key player in the main Scottish team which has been dominating the game since it started in Nepal 24 years ago. Scotland has a strong, even if unlikely, link with the game. It was originally played by Scots in India at the turn of the century and was started up again in 1982 by James Manclark from Edinburgh. The games - held in Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal - always have a 'Scottish' feel to them with the ceremonies being opened and closed with a selection of music played on the bagpipes, accompanied by the World Elephant Polo official drink - Chivas Regal Whisky.