Buzkashi: The Odd Sport of Headless Goat Polo

If you love animals and hate gore, brace yourself for one of the most eyebrow-raising weird sports yet. While there are a lot of weird ways that polo is played, buzkashi stand arms and shoulders above the rest due to it's shocking nature. While some strange sports are likely to become accepted worldwide in the future, buzkashi is in a separate category all its own.

Refrain from playing buzkashi in your local park

When people in the modern western world play sports, they typically exclude headless animal carcasses. Needless to say, any growing popularity of buzkashi in the U.S. will come with a "cruel sports" label from PETA. Unfortunately, a modern variation of this sport that excludes a headless animal has yet to be found. Unless you live in Central Asia, you might become alienated in your local community for playing buzkashi at the playground.

How to play with a carcass

To start playing this game, you will need a headless goat carcass that weighs about 66 pounds. In order for it to be easy to grab, it should have four legs attached to the body. Once you have your carcass ready and your horses are saddled up, the rules of buzkashi are simple. Three circles are drawn next to each other with a fourth circle placed on the opposite end of the field. In the middle of the solitary circle, the goat carcass is placed.

On the opposite side of the field from the goat, everyone starts out on horseback in between the two goal circles. The object of buzkashi is to get to the circle where the goat is and be the first to get the goat back to your goal. Furthermore, you need to keep the goat away from the opposing team as you make your way towards the goal, all while on horseback. Think of it as an ever so slight twist of capture the flag.

A brief history of buzkashi

Not to be confused with the terrestrial kingfisher birds of Australia called "kookaburras," the sport of buzkashi is also known as kökbörü. Currently, the International Qurultaı of Kökbörü-Buzkaşı Organisations (KBUHQ) is the rule maker and regulator of this Central Asian past time for the tudabarai and qarajai versions. Buzkashi was played during the recent war and is said by many Afghani's to be over 2,000 years old. While buzkashi is the official national sport of Afghanistan, it is not exclusive to this country.

The Kökbörü-Buzkaşı World Championship is organized each year to have participating countries compete in a final playoff. This event is similar to the style of the Olympics, yet buzkashi was not represented at the 2010 South Asian Games. Since 1924, participation in the World Buzkashi Championships has included Iran, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Interesting buzkashi equestrian facts

Naturally, any strong buzkashi player will have a good relationship with his horse. The players exult the horses with the names attributed to the color of the horse. For example, an ash blonde steed is referred to as "Samand," a name normally reserved for a an ancient breed of fast Persian horses.

Other equestrian clues about this sport come from pictures taken of live competitions. From them, you can see that the amount of saddle shifting required to capture a carcass from the ground means that the stirrups used will be traditional. Obviously, this is far from the standard quick-release pin safety stirrups we use in places like the U.S. today. While using these older stirrups can lead to severe dragging injuries for the riders, it appears to be a requirement of this sport.

A kilted Kökbörü 2012

Interestingly, there is one country outside of the region that is mentioned frequently in the sports of buzkashi. Although there is not a definitive report, there are many online rumors that the 2012 Buzkashi World Championships will take place in Scotland. According to IB.Frath.net, Scotland has had informal buzkashi matches in 1995, 2001 and 2003 around the events of the Highland Games. Currently, news in English about the whereabouts of the next buzkashi championship is scarce.

For now, we are waiting for an adaptation of buzkashi that does not involve breaking an animal lover's heart.

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Updated Monday, Oct 31, 2011