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SI's globe-trotting artist captures in paintings some of the highlights of an old Asian sport—the pitting of animal against animal in contest and combat

Every four-legged animal which can possibly be kept on a course is raced in Asian countries. Bedouins ride swift Arabian horses over desert sands; Afghans compete aboard stumpy Mongol ponies, and Arab legionnaires rock and roll on racing camels in the Transjordan desert. No festival is without some animal contest, often grueling and savage. Miniature bullocks pull high-wheeled carts in Ceylon, and tiny fighting fish tear each other to ribbons in a village near Bangkok. Afghans even bet on battles between pocket-sized fighting partridges. In India, cheetahs bring down the sambhur deer, and Arab falconers send their birds against gazelles and bustards. Most uproarious of the contests are the elephant races. Fifteen elephants were entered in the race shown above, held at Kandy, capital of Ceylon. The crowd came from miles around in bullock carts, and the betting was heavy. Incidentally, Rajah, the favorite, won by a trunk and then happily cooled out when the mahout took him to the nearby river for a four-hour bath.

In the shadow of an old fort in the Khyber Pass region, turbaned shepherds shout encouragement to fighting rams locked in battle. A favorite native sport during the rutting season in Pakistan, Afghanistan and northern India, ram fighting takes place wherever a challenge is issued and a contestant can be found. The animals rush at each other, heads down, and collide with a mighty thud. Then they back off and charge again. This head banging goes on while the odds keep changing until the ram with the biggest headache decides it has had enough and unhappily retires.