November 17 – Elephant Round-Up in Surin

Posted on November 17, 2013

Traditionally, the people of Surin, Thailand, were known for capturing wild elephants in Cambodia and training them to do work for people. However, the civil war in Cambodia made it tougher for elephant handlers (mahouts) to make a living in this practical way.

So some of the mahouts turned to using elephants as entertainment!

I have already written about elephants painting pictures and making music; since 1960 mahouts and their elephants have been holding a round-up festival every November. Here are some elephant shows that you could see if you were in Surin today:
  • elephant football (or soccer) games
  • elephant tug-of-war matches
  • re-enactments of battles, with elephant steeds
  • elephant choreography

On Friday the festival began with an Elephant Procession – more than 300 elephants marching through the city from the railway station to the Elephant Breakfast. Some of the elephants carried important people, some carried mahouts in authentic “battle outfits” from the past, and some carried tourists! In between the elephants, local children and teachers wearing traditional costumes danced for the onlookers.

The Elephant Breakfast was a huge spread of fruits that the elephants gobbled up. There are usually some leftovers, which local people take home.

Yesterday and today the festival-goers enjoy all the shows and also petting, feeding, and riding elephants. It really does sound fun!

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