The Odd Sport of Headless Goat Polo

by on February 5th, 2011
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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 deserves its own article due to it’s shocking nature. While some games, like kabbadi, are likely to become accepted world-wide athletics of the future, buzkashi is in a separate category due to the gruesome features of this strange sport.

Refrain from playing buzkashi in your local park

Typically, when people in the West play games, they usually exclude a headless animal carcass. Needless to say, any growing popularity of the buzkashi game in the West will come with a “cruel sports” label from PETA. Unfortunately, a modern variation of this sport that excludes a headless animal has not been featured on the internet. Therefore, if you do not live in Central Asia, you might become alienated in your local community due to your passion 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. Furthermore, you need to keep the goat away from the opposing team while you are on your way back. Your team’s goal is almost in the same place that everyone starts from. If you are successful, you have carried the carcass on horseback and placed it in your team’s circle.

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.

Instead, The Kökbörü-Buzkaşı World Championship is organised each year to have participating countries compete in a final playoff. This event is similar to the style of the Olympics, but 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. Despite this, the players rarely call them anything but names to describe the color of the horse. For example, an ash blonde steed is referred to as “Samand.”

Other equestrian clues about this game 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 today. While using these older stirrups can lead to severe dragging injuries for the riders, it appears to be a requirement of this weird sport.

A kilted Kökbörü 2012

Interestingly, there is one country outside of the region that is mentioned frequently. Although there is not a definitive web presence of the fact, there are many rumors that the 2012 Buzkashi World Championships will take place in Scotland. According to, Scotland has had informal matches in 1995, 2001, and 2003 around the events of the Highland Games. Currently, news in English that talks 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. In the meantime, consider embracing weird sports in your daily life by playing other strange versions of polo with your friends.

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