Playing polo with a dead goat

"Buzkashi" is a traditional sport played in Central Asia. It is also known as "Kok-boru" or "Oglak Tartis". During the game, a rider tries to grab a headless goat or calf and throw it across a goal line or into a target circle called "vat". Dead animal used in Buzkashi is beheaded. Its bowls are taken out. Limbs are cut off at knees. Before being used in the game body is kept in water for 24 hours. This is done to make it tougher. In some situations organizers put some sand inside the body to make it heavier. Goat is used as "ball" in Buzkashi only when there is no calf available.


Other players participating in match try to stop the rider carrying a headless animal by using their whips and boots. That is why all players wear special protective clothes. Buzkashi has two main versions - "Tudabarai" and "Qarajai". Tudubarai is simpler as the main goal of each player is just to carry the dead animal body away from the starting circle. The rider must stay free, away from other riders.

Quaraji is much more complex. A player in this version of Buzkashi has to carry the dead animal body around a flag or marker located at one side of the field. From there he has to throw it into so called "the "Circle of Justice". He uses a horse whip to defend himself from other players and horses. There are situations where Buzkashi is played for several days. But usually the time of game is limited.

Some Buzkashi players are professionals. Experienced star players are called "chapandaz". Horses used in Buzkashi are specially trained for some 5 years. Their prices can reach up to US$ 15,000. The winner of Buzkashi match gets a money prize or some fine clothes.

500 Afghanis closeup (photo by Doctor Yuri)
500 Afghanis closeup

Little bit of Buzkashi trivia. Buzkashi became very popular in Afghanistan after being shown in film "Rambo III" (1988). It was forbidden during the Taliban rule. Nowadays it is played again. A picture of men playing Buzkashi can be see on the Afghan 500 Afghanis banknote. Buzkashi is the main topic of a novel Les Cavaliers (Horsemen) by French writer Joseph Kessel (1898-1979). There is a film version of this novel titled "The Horsemen". It was directed in 1971 by John Frankenheimer (1930–2002).