Buzkashi (goat-grabbing) is the Afghan version of Polo that makes the British sport look utterly tame.
A widely popular sport in central Asia, buzkashi is played by large, grown, bearded men on muscular stallions called Chapandaz. The goal of the game is very similar to Polo, but instead of a small, flimsy ball, buzkashi players or Chapandaz drag a carcass of a headless goat or calf to score goals. To thwart the opposing team’s efforts, each Chapandaz sports a small whip often carried in their teeth to trip the opposing teams’ horses. A serious buzkashi game could last for several days.
The goat used in the game is usually beheaded, disemboweled, and soaked in cold water 24 hours before the big day. Its limbs are cut off at the joints, and sometimes the carcass is filled with sand for extra weight. Calves are preferred over goats in any game because goats tend to disintegrate quickly.
So why use goat carcasses? Many believe Buzkashi was first played in the Amu Darya, near the border of Afghanistan, which was invaded by Genghis Khan. The Mongols stole sheep and goat while riding at full speed on horseback, and men in the village had to likewise gallop to the enemy camps to retrieve their livestock. Eventually, the men began to enjoy the chase, and thus buzkashi was born.
Buzkashi is currently the national sport of Afghanistan and is played in several countries including Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, northern Pakistan, India and Kazakhstan.