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Buzkashi player

Buzkashi or Kok-boru or Oglak Tartis (Persian, Urdu: بزکشی bozkæšī; Tajik: бузкашӣ buzkašī, "goat grabbing"; Uzbek, Tatar: kökbörü, kök "blue" + börü "wolf"; Kazakh: көкпар; Kyrgyz: улак-тартыш or көкбөрү; wuzloba, "the goat game"; Turkmen: owlakgapdy; ) is a traditional Central Asian team sport played on horseback in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.[1] The steppes' people were skilled riders who could grab a goat or calf from the ground while riding a horse at full gallop. The goal of a player is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or vat.


Sport of Central Asia

File:Afghan Game Buzkashi.jpg
Game of Buzkashi in Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan

Buzkashi is known as a popular Afghan sport (possibly due to its exposure in the film Rambo 3). It is also a popular sport among the south Central Asians such as the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, Kyrgyz, Kazakhs, Turkmens and Pashtuns. The Turkic name of the game is Kökbörü; Kök = "blue", börü = "wolf", denoting the grey wolf—the holy symbol of the Turkic people. Other Turkic names of the game are Ulak Tartish, Kuk Pari, Kök Berü, and Ulak Tyrtysh. Kökbörü is the most popular national sport of Kyrgyzstan. In the West, the game (Turkish: Cirit) is also played by Kyrgyz Turks who migrated to Ulupamir village in the Van district of Turkey from the Pamir region.

Competition is typically fierce, as other players may use any force short of tripping the horse in order to thwart scoring attempts. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players' whips and boots. Games can last for several days, and the winning team receives a prize, not necessarily money, as a reward for their win.

The game consists of two main forms: Tudabarai and Qarajai. Tudabarai is considered to be the simpler form of the game. In this version, the goal is simply to grab the calf and move in any direction until clear of the other players. In Qarajai, players must carry the carcass around a flag or marker at one end of the field, then throw it into a scoring circle (the "Circle of Justice") at the other end. The riders will carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders.

Buzkashi is often compared to polo. Both games are played between people on horseback, both involve propelling an object toward a goal, and both get fairly rough. However, polo is played with a ball, while Buzkashi is played with a dead animal. Polo matches are played for fixed periods totaling about an hour; traditional Buzkashi may continue for days, but in its more regulated tournament version also has a limited match time.

The calf in a Buzkashi game is normally beheaded and disemboweled and has its limbs cut off at the knees. It is then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Occasionally sand is packed into the carcass to give it extra weight. Players may not strap the calf to their bodies or saddles. Though a goat is used when no calf is available, a calf is less likely to disintegrate during the game.

A game of kokpar

Serious Buzkashi players train intensively for years, and many of the masters (called chapandaz) are over forty years old. Playing well also requires specially trained horses that know to stop still when a rider is thrown and to gallop forcefully when their rider gets hold of the calf. These horses can sell today for as much as US$10,000-15,000.

A similar game is "kokpar", a traditional Kazakh game played on horseback in which two teams of players compete to carry a headless goat carcass into a goal.

Sports of China

In China, there is not only horse-back Buzkashi, but also yak Buzkashi among Tuziks.

Ban in Afganistan

Buzkashi is the national sport and a "passion" in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans (male only).[2] During Taliban regime of Afghanistan, Buzkashi was banned, as Taliban considered the game as immoral. But since the Taliban regime was ousted the game is being played again.[3][4]

Non-mounted version in United States and Western Europe

Buzkashi is also played as a non-mounted game first introduced at Society for Creative Anachronism events in the 1970s. The game is also called "Sheep Rugby" and two evenly divided teams of any size compete for control of a stuffed fabric sheep. The sheep is placed in a circle in the center of a playing field with one stake at either end. On signal, the teams rush from the stakes to the center and the sheep is carried around both end posts once and then returned to the center circle. The side whose members return the largest portion of the fake sheep score one point. Play continues until either side scores two points. This version is played at SCA events as well as Renaissance Faires.

Kav Kaz

A mounted version of the game has also been played in the United States. In the 1940s young men in the Cleveland area of Ohio played a game they called Kav Kaz. The men - five to a team - played on horseback with a sheepskin-covered ball. The Greater Cleveland area had six or seven teams. The game was divided into three chukkers, somewhat like polo. The field was about the size of a football field and had goals at each end: large wooden frameworks standing on tripods, with holes about two feet square. The players carried the ball in their hands, holding it by the long-fleeced sheepskin. A team had to pass the ball three times before throwing it into the goal. If the ball fell to the ground, the player had to reach down from his horse to pick it up. One player recalls, "Others would try to unseat the rider as he leaned over. They would grab you by the shoulder to shove you off. There weren't many rules."[5]

Popular culture

Buzkashi is portrayed in several books, both fiction and nonfiction. It is shown in Steve Berry's new book, The Venetian Betrayal, and is briefly mentioned in the Khaled Hosseini book The Kite Runner. Buzkashi was the subject of a book called Horsemen of Afghanistan by French photojournalists Roland and Sabrina Michaud. Gino Strada has written a book named after the sport (with the spelling Buskashì) in which he tells about his life as surgeon in Kabul in the days after 9-11 strikes.

There have been two books written about Buzkashi that were later turned into movies. The game is the core and subject of a novel by French novelist Joseph Kessel titled Les Cavaliers (aka Horsemen) as well as of the film of the same title featuring Omar Sharif. The game is also a key element in the book Caravans by James Michener and the film of the same name starring Anthony Quinn. A scene from the film featuring the king of Afghanistan watching a game included the real-life king at the time, Mohammed Zahir Shah. The whole sequence of the game being witnessed by the king was filmed on the Kabul Golf Course, where the national championships were played at the time the film was made. Also in Rambo III Directed by Peter MacDonald, released in 1988, John Rambo played by Sylvester Stallone was shown in a sequence plying Buzkashi with his mujahideen friends when suddenly they were attacked by Russians.

The game also is mentioned in several movies. A game of buzkashi, played in Afghanistan, is featured in an early scene of Rambo III. The 1983 Tom Selleck film High Road to China features a spirited game of buzkashi. Buzkashi is described at length in Episode 2, "The Harvest of the Seasons," of the documentary The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski. It is put in the context of the development, by the Mongols, of warfare using the horse and its effect on agricultural settlements. The film includes several scenes from a game in Afghanistan. The opening scenes of the Indian film Khuda Gawah, which was filmed in Afghanistan and India, show actors Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi engaged in the game. The game is also mentioned briefly in John Huston's film The Man Who Would Be King, the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story during advertisements for the fictional ESPN 8 (El Ocho) television channel, and the Bollywood movie Kabul Express.

See also

  • Pato, a similar horseback Argentine sport
  • Yak racing
  • Rugby union in Afghanistan


  1. The traditional Oglak Tartis among the Kirghiz of the Pamirs
  2. "G. Whiney Azoy notes in his book "Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan:.... (that) leaders are ment who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The Buzkashi rider does the same" Tony Perry Afghans love to get their goat in rough national sport January 3, 2010 page A20 LA Times
  3. Ban on Buzkashi
  4. Buzkashi played again
  5. Dean, Ruth and Melissa Thomson, Making the Good Earth Better: The Heritage of Kurtz Bros., Inc. pp. 17-18

  • G. Whitney Azoy (2003), Buzkash:i Game and Power in Afghanistan, 2nd ed. Waveland Press.
  • "Ancient Kyrgyz game may captivate Europe", The Times of Central Asia, 9 November 2006 (www.timesca.com)
  • V. Kadyrov, Kyrgyzstan: Traditions of Nomads, Rarity Ltd., Bishkek, 2005 ISBN 9967-424-42-7

External links



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