I had the pleasure of visiting the Ak-Kula Hippodrome in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, to witness a game at times brutal, that could easily have come from a Mad Max movie, known locally as Kok Boru, or Buzkashi in Afghanistan. The game is simply two teams on horses that have to get a headless stuffed goat, into a concrete pit goal, located at each side of the field.

This is a favourite game of the nomads in Central Asia, and can involve the men falling off the horses and getting trampled on. It’s a hard game, with the need to be able to pick the heavy goats body from the ground, and race down the field to the goal while the other team tries to block you. It is an exciting game to watch.

There were two separate games played, and I could ramble on about the experience, but it is best told in pictures:

Kok Boru / Buzkashi !

The first game begins.

The first game begins.

The headless goat is picked up from the ground.

The headless goat is picked up from the ground.

Charging down the field.

Charging down the field.

The passionate fans.

The passionate fans.

The hippodrome field with a concrete pit goal shown on the left.

The hippodrome field with a concrete pit goal shown on the left.

Kok Boru in Kyrgyzstan

The second game teams enter.

Video of the two teams marching through the hippodrome. The music isn’t dubbed over, this is what they played through the loudspeaker that was next to me on the main stage.

The two teams battle for the goat.

The two teams battle for the goat.

Going for goal!

Going for goal!

Man stands on goal having fallen off his horse.

Man stands on goal having fallen off his horse.

Local man enjoys the game.

Local man enjoys the game.

The headless goat is thrown into the goal.

The headless goat is thrown into the goal.

A water truck breaks through the crowd to clean the field during half-time.

A water truck breaks through the crowd to clean the field during half-time.

The battle continues.

The battle continues.

A future young Buzkashi player?

A future young Buzkashi player?

UPDATE:

Having attended the World Nomad Games a few weeks after this post was written, I had the opportunity to see more games of kok boru. The exciting third place match between Turkey and Russia was great, but the final, which funnily enough had Kyrgyzstan versus Kyrgyzstan playing, was the best.

The two teams were quite equally matched making for a very competitive game. Being a member of the press for the games, I had managed too get right beside the field with a few others, and had the teams come charging right at me when they were fighting over the goat. That is an experience never to forget.

They play that awesome music at every kok boru game I have been to now, and it never gets boring. If you ever get out to Central Asia you have to go and witness one of these games.

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Kyrgyzstan-kok-boru

 

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