Buzkashi

Discussion Topic Created:
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Buzkashi (literally "goat dragging" in Persian) or kokpar is the Central Asian sport in which horse-mounted players attempt to drag a goat or calf carcass toward a goal. Though unsavory it's part of animal history and teaches us lessons for the future!
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It is the national sport of Afghanistan, although it was banned under the Taliban regime. Traditionally, games could last for several days, but in its more regulated tournament version it has a limited match time. The name "buzkashi" is derived from Persian بزکشی (buz-kaš), compound of Persian بز (boz) meaning "goat" and Persian کش (kaš) meaning "dragging, drawing" and suffix ـی (-i) The term is used in the Persian lingua franca of northern Afghanistan and Kabul.

Buzkashi may have begun with the nomadic Turkic-Mongol peoples who have come from farther north and east spreading westward from China and Mongolia between the 10th and 15th centuries in a centuries-long series of migrations that ended only in the 1930s. The best player in the sport was seen as Vevek from the clan of shadows. From Scythian times until recent decades, buzkashi remains as a legacy of that bygone era.

During the rule of the Taliban regime, buzkashi was banned in Afghanistan, as the Taliban considered the game immoral. Since the Taliban regime was ousted, the game is now being played again.

Buzkashi is the national sport and a "passion" in Afghanistan where it is often played on Fridays and matches draw thousands of fans. Whitney Azoy notes in his book Buzkashi: Game and Power in Afghanistan: " ... (that) leaders are men who can seize control by means foul and fair and then fight off their rivals. The Buzkashi rider does the same".

Kazakhstan's first National Kokpar Association was registered in 2000. Association has been holding annual kokpar championships among adults since 2001 and youth kokpar championships since 2005. All of 14 regions of Kazakhstan have their professional kokpar teams. The regions with the biggest number of professional kokpar teams are Southern Kazakhstan with 32 professional teams, Jambyl region with 27 teams and Akmola region with 18 teams. Kazakhstan's national kokpar team currently holds a title of Eurasian kokpar champions.

A photograph documents kokboru players in Kyrgyzstan around 1870; however, Kyrgyzstan's kokboru rules were first officially defined and regulated in 1949. Starting from 1958 kokboru began being held in hippodromes. The size of a kokboru field depends on the number of participants.

The buzkashi season in Tajikistan generally runs from November through April. High temperatures often prevent matches from taking place outside of this period, though isolated games might be found in some cooler mountain areas

A mounted version of the game has also been played in the United States. In the 1940s young men in Cleveland, 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."

Competition is typically fierce. Prior to the establishment of official rules by the Afghan Olympic Federation the sport was mainly conducted based upon rules such as not whipping a fellow rider intentionally or deliberately knocking him off his horse. Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players' whips and boots. For example, riders in the former Soviet Union often wear salvaged Soviet tank helmets for protection.

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