BUZKASHI: Kyrgyzstan And Decapitated Goats

On January 25, 2014 by Tim Newman

KYRGYZSTAN - Buzkashi - goat sport

The other day I was browsing some data about the level and quality of education in different countries throughout the world, mostly just because I like stats and graphs; I’m not apologising for that…… (Please don’t stop reading yet, I know I’ve started this in a bit of an Open University, yawn attack, fashion, but the decapitated animals are coming up I swear)..,.

Anyway, I scanned to the bottom of the chart, and the losers in 2009, were Kyrgyzstan. I thought to myself, I actually don’t know where that country is, or anything about it. So I got Mr Wikipedia to once again broaden my minimal mind. This is Kyrgyzstan in a nut shell:


No, only joking. In part. It’s a mountainous country in Central Asia that’s further from the sea than any other country. It’s bordered by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. There’s about five and a half million people living there, a third of which are under 15, they speak Kyrgyz and Russian and they have a banging flag:



OK, OK, enough of the geo-deets, the thing that really caught my eye was info about their favourite sport. It’s called buzkashi and is massively popular throughout central Asia; it is in fact the Afghan national sport. It sounds like a right old knees up to me. It consists of blokes on horses chucking about the corpse of a recently decapitated goat.

KYRGYZSTAN - Buzkashi - Afghanistan

Buzkashi horseman from Afghanistan

Buzkashi horseman in Afghanistan

Buzkashi horseman from Tajikistan

Buzkashi horseman from Tajikistan

There are two forms of buzkashi: in the first form the player just has to get the carcass away from all the other players and carry it off, and in the other they have to carry poor old goaty around a marker and then bung it in to a “circle of justice” to get the win. The rules are fairly basic: you’re not supposed to whip other players or knock them off their horse intentionally.

KYRGYZSTAN - Buzkashi - fight

The Kyrgyz prefer to use calf bodies in a buzkashi game where possible, it’s normally beheaded then disemboweled and has its limbs cut off at the knees. Finally it’s given an icy bath for a day to toughen the bugger up. On occasion sand is packed in to give it extra weight. Goats are used when no calf is available, but calves are preferable as apparently they are less likely to disintegrate during the game. And you wouldn’t want that spoiling the fun would you?

It’s basically like Polo, except instead of a ball, it’s a corpse, instead of a timed match, it can go on for days and instead of being played by posh mongs, it’s played by bull whip carrying nut jobs.

Here’s a buzkashi match in Kabul:



The Taliban banned buzkashi in Afghanistan whilst they were in power, but since they’ve gone it has been reinstated. Phew.

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