Sports are likely as old as mankind in one form or another. We play games when we have the time and ability to do so. And that means we’ve had a long, long time to develop different sports. Some obviously become popular and take the world by storm, like baseball or soccer. Others are a little more obscure. Or, in the case of these 10, a lot more obscure.
10. Parahawking Mixes Falconry and Paragliding
The sport of paragliding dates back to the 1950s, taking advantage of parachutes which were still a relatively new invention. Falconry, on the other hand, is thousands of years old and was enjoyed throughout the Middle East as much as 5,500 years ago. So a lot of time separates the birth of these two endeavors. And yet somehow they managed to come together in the form of parahawking.
Parahawking involves paragliding with falcons or other birds of prey and using them to help find thermal currents and updrafts. It’s been practiced for years, and there was even a 20-year-old group in Spain that only shut down due to Covid. There have also been accusations that the sport amount to animal cruelty in forcing the birds to participate, which led to a rescue in Nepal being shut down.
9. Girl Chasing Involves a Girl on Horseback Being Chased by Boys on Horseback
The history of mankind is very much preoccupied with the idea of pursuing members of the opposite sex. Historically, this has been very much one sided with men pursuing, wooing, or even chasing women. And who knows, maybe that’s where the Kazakh tradition of Girl Chasing came from.
Unlike the romantic kind of chasing a girl, this one is frenetic and somewhat terrifying since it involves literal chasing on horseback. Kazakh people have historically been some of the greatest horsemen in the world, and even invented stirrups. So maybe “hunting” would be a better name. Nevertheless, this traditional game, also known as Kuuz Kuu, is part of Kazakh tradition and dates back generations.
The game involves a girl, also on horseback, being chased by boys on horseback. It’s something of a race and there is a predetermined finish line. The boys have to catch the girl before she reaches the line. The upside for her? She has a whip and can use it to chase them. If a boy catches her, he wins a kiss. If the girl escapes, she can whip them even more.
8. The Calcio Storico is a Violent Mix of Soccer and Boxing
If the media is describing calcio storico as “the most brutal sport on earth” then you can assume it goes pretty hard. And it does. A mix of soccer and wrestling or just straight up brawling, this Italian game dates back to the 16th century and involves punching, head butting and choking. Are there any rules? Some! You can’t kick anyone in the head or sucker punch them. Other than that, have at it.
There is a ball in play and a goal that can be reached to score points. The winner is obviously the team of 27 that scores the most goals. There is a referee, but the game is not sympathetic to those who are injured. If you need to be carried off the field, the gameplay won’t stop. There are also no player substitutions.
In laying waste to your opponent almost anything goes. If you happen to be an expert in Muay Thai, for instance, you’re more than welcome to use those skills. Just remember, no head kicks. Also, no teaming up. Fights have to be one-on-one.
Despite being a game, things do get personal because how could they not? In 2007, officials in Florence banned the game for a year after the match turned into an all out fight that resulted in 50 players going to court.
7. Kok-Boru is Like Football But With a Dead Goat
People all over the world invented games that involve hitting or otherwise moving a ball towards some goal. The rules change from game to game, but the basic idea is the same. But to see just how much the rules can vary from one game to another, check out Kok-boru, a traditional game from Kyrgyzstan that requires players to be on horseback. Also, the ball is traditionally a dead goat.
Like American football, the goal is to carry the ball, or in this case maybe a headless goat, into the end zone of the other team to score. More modern versions of the game don’t require an actual dead goat and will use a fake stand-in, but it seems people will still go the traditional route if they can.
The game itself may have evolved from shepherds in fields losing some of their flock to wolves. What else do you do when you have a carcass in the field? May as well have some fun.
6. Inuit Ear Pulling
Up in the Arctic, sport diversity is a little harder to come by. Sure there are winter sports played on snow and ice, but what else? For the Inuit people, ear pulling is a sport that doesn’t require the frosty outdoors but will test your pain endurance.
One of the events at the annual World Eskimo-Indian Olympics in Alaska, which has gone on for more than 60 years now, ear pulling is a two-person sport. A string is used to link the ears of competitors, looped over the back of each other to tie them together. Then they pull away from each other to see who can endure the most discomfort of that string pulling on their ear. It’s meant to mimic the pain of frostbite and, unsurprisingly, it has led to injuries in the past. At least one competitor had the string dig into their ear so badly they needed seven stitches to close it up again.
5. Spinning Combines Drifting and Acrobatics
If you’re a fan of auto sports but find most racing lacks variety, then maybe spinning is the sport for you. Popular in South Africa and called the “most reckless sport,” it combines the best of drifting with acrobatics in a way that makes it seem like someone is going to die at any moment.
While a car is set spinning (hence the name) doing donuts and burnouts and so on in a parking lot, the driver of the car may open the door or just hang out the window, perhaps upside down or in some other death-defying position while the car is basically left to control itself.
The sport was born in as unlikely a fashion as the way it plays out. It came from the practice of gangsters stealing cars and then spinning to show off what they’d stolen, becoming a little bit more glamorous and grandiose with the passage of time. Another story claims that it was just created by a guy who thought hanging upside down out of a moving car would be cool. These days, formal competitions are hosted by companies like Red Bull.
4. German Wok Racing
Luge, bobsled, skiing and snowboarding all involve someone heading down a snowy hill at high speeds and you’d think those four sports would have covered all the way you could do such a thing. Turns out that’s not quite true because Germany came up with wok racing. The sport is mostly the same as all those others, with the key difference being you’re heading downhill in a wok.
While the sport started as little more than a gimmick, it soon became bafflingly popular. Over 3.6 million Germans tuned in to watch televised races. Six thousands fans showed up for the 2010 championships and the sport somehow even managed to sell out with fans and the media lamenting how commercial it became with every conceivable surface of the athletes gear covered in sponsor logos.
3. Death Diving is An Extreme Belly Flop Sport
There are a good number of sports that require the use of a swimming pool, from diving to water polo to just competitive swimming. One thing most aquatic sports have in common, however, is that if you somehow belly flop into the pool during the course of that sport, you probably messed up. There’s no grace to a belly flop and mostly it’s just awkward and painful. So of course someone made it a sport and somehow made it more dangerous and painful.
Known as dødsing in its native Norway, the sport isn’t technically belly flopping from 10 meters in the air, it just could be that. The idea is to jump and hold your body in an X-formation with arms and legs out. Then, at the last possible moment, draw your arms and legs in to land in the water in a more safe, non-belly flop position. The longer you can hold out, the better. And, presumably, if your timing is off, you’re landing that belly flop.
There are national championships every year and rumor has it that there have been some serious injuries ranging from broken noses to punctured lungs.
2. Bokdrol Spoeg or Kudu Dung Spitting Involves Spitting Antelope Poop
You’ll be hard pressed to fight a lot of people who want to watch bokdrol spoeg and even fewer who want to participate. Also known in English as “kudu dung spitting,” this South African sport requires you to take a pellet of poop from an animal called a kudu, which is a kind of antelope, and then put it in your mouth. You then spit that turd as far as you can. Whoever spits it the farthest is the winner although it’s hard to say anyone wins when everyone has a mouthful of poop.
Despite the fact a kudu is a decent-sized animal, their feces is almost rabbit-like in appearance. Just little piles of round pellets. It’s hard to say what inspired the first person to try the sport. It bears a strong resemblance to just spitting out watermelon seeds and it’s entirely possible it came about when someone put one in their mouth thinking it was actual food and then spit it out after realizing what it was, impressing a friend with the distance. Who’s to say?
No word on how popular the sport is, but it does have a Wikipedia article and you can find videos of it on YouTube, so that has to count for something.
1. Camel Wrestling Is Mostly What It Sounds Like
Some sports are very much born of the time and place in which they were created. No one in Idaho was going to invent surfing, and snowboarding was unlikely to come from the Australian outback. So the western parts of Turkey were only going to come up with so many different sports based on what was available for people to play around with. And that’s how camel wrestling was invented.
Amazingly, this sport has a solid 2,400 years of history and the name isn’t metaphorical or misleading in any way. In 2011, 20,000 people showed up to watch camel wrestling in Selcuk, proving just how popular this unusual sport really is.
Camels are naturally combative when they think they’re going to mate and there are other males around to compete with. So in the sport, males are exposed to females in heat and then put in an arena together. They have gear on to protect them from biting each other but otherwise it’s just two male camels fighting over a female. The winner either knocks the other camel down or makes it run away.It’s been compared to Spanish bullfighting in terms of cultural significance and tradition.
Just as curious as the sport is the fact it really offers no one involved any benefit. The camels don’t actually get to breed and the human owners don’t even make money off of it. It’s been called a “rich man’s sport” simply because it costs a lot of money and only provides fleeting entertainment rewards. The winner of the 2011 tournament got a machine-made rug.