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Battle Elephants And The Ancient Art Of Tent Pegging

In case you’re wondering, it doesn’t involve camping, and it’s on horseback. The sport of tent pegging has ancient origins and can be dated back to the 4th Century BCE as a cavalry training exercise in the Subcontinent. Cavaliers charge full tilt lance in hand at a target fixed in the ground. It requires expert horsemanship, courage, and phenomenal hand-eye coordination.

The International Equestrian Federation maintain that tent pegging originated in middle ages India as means to simulate cavalry tactics used against battle elephants. The favoured tactic of that period when combatting battle elephants was to charge on horseback with a pointed lance and pierce the sensitive skin behind the elephants toenail to unseat its mount and cause the elephant to run amok.

File:Tent pegging (montage).jpg
A montage of an Indian Army officer successfully uprooting a tent pegging target, by Mike Bostock.

You may still be wondering why the sport is called tent pegging rather than elephant tilting or toe stabbing. In what may be an apocryphal etymological origin story, it is claimed that during pre-dawn raids cavaliers would utilise their toe stabbing skills to uproot their sleeping enemies tent pegs.

You can catch the tent pegging competition this Sydney Royal Easter show daily at GIANTS Stadium just after 5 pm.

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