2014-08-31 12.54.58

My second to last day in Bishkek happened to fall on a special day for Kyrgyzstan – National Independence Day. There were many celebrations going on around the city, but one that was particularly interesting was happening at the Hippodrome or horse racing stadium. They had a special sports game called Kok-boru or Ulak tartysh depending on which country you’re in. Simply put, this game is basically like polo except no sticks. You are supposed to drag the ball and throw it into the goal. The only thing is they don’t play it with a ball… Sticking with traditions of more barbaric times they prefer to actually behead a goat or sheep and use the headless body as a ball. The goal of the game is to gain control of the body and throw it into a goal made of a stack of tires. This is their national pastime sport and an extremely popular sport throughout Central Asia. In fact, next week the World Nomad Games will be held in Kyrgyzstan where teams from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and even Russia will be competing for the title.

The game is set up essentially like hockey with three periods of 20 minutes. There are five riders on the field at a time and they can switch out whenever they like. The game begins with and has periodic face offs in which two players ram their horses into each other within a small circled area, trampling over the goat body, and fighting each other in order to gain control of the goat. They’ll then try to carry it all the way to a goal but this proves quite difficult because the goat weights 30-40 kilograms and other players constantly ram their horses into the player with possession while trying to kick the goat out of his hands.

I don’t even find this sort of stuff weird anymore…

2014-08-31 14.23.42