Afghans Revive Goat-Carcass Sport

Buzkashi draws sponsors in post-Taliban economy

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 18, 2009 11:49 AM CST

(Newser) – Not even the Taliban managed to kill it, and now buzkashi, the national sport of Afghanistan, is thriving again, attracting corporate sponsors and emboldening its boosters to contact Olympics officials, with the ambition of building an international following. Did we mention it’s a virtually rule-less polo-like game played by men on horseback fighting over a goat or calf carcass?

“It's very violent,” one owner of buzkashi horses tells USA Today. “Animal rights activists wouldn't like it.” There is a single rule: “You cannot hit the other” riders—with your whip. That’s only to be used on horses. Other violence, including broken bones and death by trampling, is not uncommon. Enthusiasts say they would agree to play with a dummy carcass if necessary to woo an international following. An Olympics spokesman wasn't convinced that would work: “I'm not sure it's a universal sport."

Afghanis watch as horsemen play Buzkashi, Afghanistan's national sport.
Afghanis watch as horsemen play Buzkashi, Afghanistan's national sport.   (AP Photo)
An Afghan buzhkashi player drops a beheaded goat during a game in Kabul, Afghanistan.
An Afghan buzhkashi player drops a beheaded goat during a game in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo)
Afghan buzhkashi player try to drag a beheaded goat during a game in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan buzhkashi player try to drag a beheaded goat during a game in Kabul, Afghanistan.   (AP Photo/Farzana Wahidy)
Afghan horse riders fight for a headless goat, center, during a game of buzkashi in Kabul.
Afghan horse riders fight for a headless goat, center, during a game of "buzkashi" in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Invented more than 2,000 years ago, and considered a national sport in Afghanistan, buzkashi resembles rodeo, polo, football and wrestling.
Invented more than 2,000 years ago, and considered a national sport in Afghanistan, buzkashi resembles rodeo, polo, football and wrestling.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Horsemen from two teams use hand-to-hand combat to fight for control of the goat carcass, which they then race to a separate scoring area.
Horsemen from two teams use hand-to-hand combat to fight for control of the goat carcass, which they then race to a separate scoring area.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Afghan horse riders take part in a game of buzkashi in Kabul.
Afghan horse riders take part in a game of "buzkashi" in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Afghan people watches as horsemen play Afghanistan's national sport Buzkashi in the outskirts of Kabul.
Afghan people watches as horsemen play Afghanistan's national sport Buzkashi in the outskirts of Kabul.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Afghan horse riders fight for a headless goat during a game of buzkashi in Kabul.
Afghan horse riders fight for a headless goat during a game of "buzkashi" in Kabul.   (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
Buzkashi, which translates as 'goat grabbing', is the national sport of Afghanistan.
Buzkashi, which translates as 'goat grabbing', is the national sport of Afghanistan.   (Getty Images)
Spectators watch Afghan buzkashi players on horseback fight for control of a beheaded goat during a game on November 6, 2009.
Spectators watch Afghan buzkashi players on horseback fight for control of a beheaded goat during a game on November 6, 2009.   (Getty Images)
The object of the game is to try to snatch the goat carcass in the field and carry it to the scoring area. This fiercely contested sport can sometimes last several days.
The object of the game is to try to snatch the goat carcass in the field and carry it to the scoring area. This fiercely contested sport can sometimes last several days.   (Getty Images)
An Afghan man draws the goal line with chalk on a dusty field before the start of the first Buzkashi game of the season.
An Afghan man draws the goal line with chalk on a dusty field before the start of the first Buzkashi game of the season.   (Getty Images)
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What about professional wrestling? Why is that acceptable? - Buzkashi Federation chief Haji Abdul Rashid, on possible objections to the sport

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