Buzkashi, an Unusual Game From Central Asia

Buzkashi (literal meaning, goat pulling) is an interesting outdoor sport, played mostly in Central Asia. Buzkashi is a combination of two Persian words, i.e. ‘Buz’, means goat and ‘Kashi’, to grab.

The same game is named ‘Kok Boru’, in Uzbekistan, ‘Kokpar’ in Kazakhstan, while in Kyrgyzstan the game is popularly known as ‘Ulak Tyrtysh’. In the game, the horse-mounted player attempted to hit the goal with goat dead body. It is just more like Polo, but in Buzkashi, instead of a ball, there is a headless goat. On unavailability of goat, the game can also be played with a calf.

The origin of the game is Central Asia, where it was played among Turkmens, Pashtuns, Kyrgyz, Hazaras, Uyghurs, Uzbeks Kazakhs, and Tajiks. Later the it spread to Afghanistan and far located areas like Turkey and China as well. In the game there are two teams of horsemen, each member tries to have a control over the carcass (dead body of the animal) and then the body is carried to the opponent‘s flagpole and is placed in a decided spot, called ‘Circle of Justice’. A successfully deposited carcass to the decided mark scores a point for the team. The team scoring most points will win.


The strategy seems simple, but the difficulty level arises when a whole team of horsemen attempts to stop the player and grab the goat. The back and forth actions between the contesting parties is really exciting but slow.

It has many Polo-like techniques involved. Horses are given special training for this game. The number of players in each team is decided one night before the game. This sport is risky too, as it could bring injuries to the players. There is a danger of horse being slipped down and rider may fall off. In case, if any horse became out of control during the game, it is shot down by rifle.

The match is more like a miniature war, which attracted thousands of spectators and fans. However, witnessing the game is very dusty venture as it is played on a dry semi-barren earth.

Some of the Interesting facts about Buzkashi are:

  • It is said that the game’s origin is rooted in ancient days when the man used to hunt the wolf. Several men attempted to kill the wolf, at the end they used to play with the wolf dead body. Later they started using sheep’s dead body and it slowly changed into a national game.
  • The goat, used for the game is firstly beheaded and all the internal organs are removed. Then animal’s body is soaked in cold water for 24 hours, which makes the flesh hard, before being used for the game.

  • In western China and in some Tajikistan areas, yaks are used, instead of horses.
  • During the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, this sport was ban in the country, as Taliban perceive the game immoral.
  • The man, sponsoring the event of Buzkashi, is highly appreciated and earns prestige in society.
  • It is also played in the USA, where the descendants of the Afghan royal families brought the game there.
  • It is strange to know that women are not allowed to watch the game in some countries e.g. Afghanistan.
  • During the game, the rider wears a hat, made up of the wolf or fox fur, as these animals are associated with cunning or craft.


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