See a game of Ulak

Ulak is probably the craziest sport in the world. Played throughout Central Asia and known also as Buzkashi, Kok Boru or Oglak Tartis, it involves a large number of horseback riders competing for the carcass of a goat removed of its limbs and head.

Herders playing Ulak in the Suusamyr Valley, Kyrgyzstan

A game of Ulak in the Suusamyr Valley at nightfall

Games are held every Saturday in the Suusamyr Valley. Ask local herders for details of where and when. There are also games held on the south shore of Lake Song Kol. CBT (see main Kyrgyzstan page) also arranges games for tourists but they are pretty tame, involving only half a dozen players compared to around fifty in the Suusamyr games.

Games are played on a field or mountain slope strewn with rocks, hillocks and ditches. Someone shouts to signal the beginning of the game and all the horseback riders gallop towards the carcass lying somewhere on the ground. As you can imagine, there is a lot of confusion (and often broken noses, broken fingers and black eyes) when they all reach it together. They then all try to swing down while still riding their horse and pick up the carcass, with others obviously trying to hinder their efforts. The winner is the one who manages to get it and ride off with it unintercepted.

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