If basketball or hockey isn’t your thing, consider taking up the sport of buzkashi. Originating with the Turks and Mongols sometime between the 10th and 15th centuries, its name means “goat dragging.” The name describes it well.
Buzkashi games are played between horse-mounted players who compete to see who can drag a decapitated goat carcass across the goal line. The rules originally were rather sparse and consisted, essentially, of prohibitions against whipping another rider intentionally or deliberately knocking someone off the horse. Games were known to last for several days. The Afghan Olympic Federation has adopted the following rules:
- The ground has a square layout with each side 400 meters long.
- Each team consists of 10 riders.
- Only five riders from each team can play in a half.
- The total duration of each half is 45 minutes.
- There is only one 15 minute break between the two halves.
- The game is supervised by a referee.
- One point is awarded for placing the goat carcass (known as a kokpar) in the other team’s territory.
The game has its largest following in central Asia, with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan contributing the most fans. In western China there is a variation of buzkashi in which players ride yaks instead of horses. The game has yet to catch on in the United States, although there is a record of a variation of the game, known as Kav Kaz, played in the 1940’s in the Cleveland, Ohio area.
To see a 3-minute clip of a buzkashi game, go here.