Practice Makes Perfect: 5 Weird Sports Around the World

My friend Jerry thinks sport is weird. Politics, debate and linguistic wrestling are more his thing. Jerry loves language, particularly the origin of words and phrases, so when he uses expressions such as ‘toe to toe’ or ‘the gloves are off’ I’m quick to explain how they originated in boxing. When it comes to the weird sports though, even I get a bit stuck. And when I say weird, I’m referring to the not-so-commonly-followed ones out there that seem just a bit out of the ordinary; but really, as if kicking a ball around just to whack it in between two metal posts weren’t arbitrary (football). There may not be a lot of language fun available here, but there is a lot of humour and a celebration of just how weird we all are. So get in the spirit, and let’s play ball!

1. Buzkashi: We’re not in Kansas anymore

Photo via Flickr

What sport isn’t improved by the introduction of a headless goat? I presume that’s what the original players of Buzkashi must have thought when they drew up the rules many years ago. Now the national sport of Afghanistan, it involves two teams on horseback competing to carry a headless goat or calf over the end line. A calf is used instead of a goat as it tends to be more durable. Among the rules is the forbidding of whipping opponents and the undertaking of an oath to play the game fairly. The sport was banned under the Taliban regime but has come back into popularity as those fun-loving fellows’ reign has diminished in the last few years.

2. Cheese Rolling: A bit cheesy

If chasing a dead goat around a muddy field doesn’t appeal maybe ‘cheese rolling’ will do the trick. Played annually on Coopers Hill, near Brockworth in Gloucestershire, competitors must chase a wheel of local Double Gloucester cheese down a very steep slope. Injuries are common and have led to calls for the age-old ‘sport’ to be banned, though the tab on the official website for ‘Lost Children’ is a bit more worrisome to me. The winner is the one over the finish line at the bottom of the hill. The prize? That 9-pound block of cheese everyone was chasing.

Photo via Flickr

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3. Ferret Legging

Another venerable English sport, that of ferret legging, probably has its origins in the times when ordinary folks weren’t allowed keep ferrets. Tenants, instead of showing gratitude to their feudal landlords for letting them work the land for zero pay and the privilege of giving their masters most of their crops, often broke the law. They kept the playful, sharp-toothed, fight-to-the-death ferrets for the illegal hunting of rabbits. By sticking the ferret down their trousers, to hide it from the local gamekeeper, a sport was born. Competitors win by keeping the ferret down there the longest. The official rules state that the competitor is not allowed wear underwear and the ferret’s teeth are not to be filed or removed.

Photo via Flickr

4. Wife Carrying: Get the wife ON your back

When not busy putting a ferret down their trousers men spend a lot of time complaining about their wives, with phrases such as: ‘I can’t get the wife off my back’, or ‘the wife is always on my back’. A phrase not to be taken literally and a quick look behind the scenes would probably show an exasperated wife doing 101 jobs while the man watches sport. Now it is possible for couples to be literal and compete in Wife Carrying championships. Originating in Finland during the early 1990s ‘Wife Carrying’ has spread around the world and there is even a set of rules to follow. I think the ‘all participants must enjoy themselves’ is a good rule and probably the one most closely followed.

 5. Kaninhoppning: Ever so bunny

Maybe it has something to do with those dark days of winter or the midnight sun of summer, but what is it with Nordic countries and weird sports? Kaninhop, show jumping for rabbits, began in Sweden before spreading throughout Europe, where it is still popular today. Original rules were based on those of the equestrian sport but were adapted to suit rabbits better. The bunny hoppers are given two minutes to complete a course of high and long jumps and competitors are strictly tested for artificial stimulants such as enhanced lettuce leaves and doctored seeds.

Photo via Wikimedia

The world of weird sports hasn’t added much to the dictionary, but it has put fun in many people’s lives. What’s better when travelling the world than taking a bit of time out to see what the locals really do for amusement? You may be surprised what you discover.

Do you play a weird sport? What’s the weirdest sport you’ve seen or maybe you’ve devised one that deserves more coverage?