Buzkashi (lit. "goat-pulling" in Persian) is played across Central Asia and Afghanistan, and involves players on horseback wrestling over a decapitated goat carcass. The rules are simple; the goal is to seize the goat and to escape to the other side of the field, while being chased by dozens of other horsemen.

The sport is said to have originated from the time when nomadic horsemen hunted wolves to protect their livestock, after which they triumphantly threw the carcasses back and forth to their friends in celebration. Nowadays, the game is played between villages in rural Tajikistan.

A game can last the whole day and normally consists of short bursts of high-speed chases when a player escapes the scrum with the goat to score a point.

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In Tajikistan, up to several hundred players can participate in the skirmish over one goat.

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Players lift the 40kg carcass off the ground in one swing while galloping in full speed, holding on to one limb while clasping another under their leg.

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Many buzkashi players do not own a horse themselves, but are sponsored by a wealthy landlord who chooses a skilled player for their champion horse. A master buzkashi player is often free to choose any horse he desires.

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The game is most often played in the natural arena of mountain valleys during the winter months, when the lower temperatures stir up less dust and prevent the horses from overheating.

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Players wear characteristic Soviet tank helmets, a legacy from old military surplus, which offer some protection against other players’ whips and boots, but not from much else.

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Events often draw large crowds - all men and boys.

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The champion of Fayzobod region, for several consecutive years, on his prize-winning horse. He proudly wears a shirt that reads "Made in the USSR."

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Winners can claim prizes such as goats, camels, horses, carpets or sometimes DVD-players. In large events the champion of the day can even be rewarded with a car.

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