For centuries around the world, people have invented many pastimes to keep them entertained. Sports have always been a big part of human cultures, with many sports originating ages ago and being handed down to us today in their modern incarnations. We’re lucky enough to live in a time when a lot of us have a lot of free time, which means we’re constantly inventing and re-inventing sports, so it’s no surprise that the world of athletic competition sometimes takes a walk on the weird side of things. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean the world’s weirdest sports are new; in fact, many of the strangest ones were invented eons ago, before people had the Internet to entertain them. Here are 10 of the weirdest sports you can play in your travels across the globe.
10. Wife-Carrying (Finland)
If you thought the Finns were progressive and all about gender equality, think again. This is a country that invented the sport of “wife-carrying,” sometimes known as “wife running.” The sport is basically an annual competition where husbands run an obstacle course while carrying their wives on their backs. The winner supposedly received his wife’s weight in beer. The most famous competition is held in Sonkjärvi, Finland, where the sport was invented. There are different carrying styles, including piggybacking, fireman’s carry and the Estonian-style, where the woman hangs upside-down with her legs around the man’s shoulders. The sport has spread to other parts of the world, including the US and Australia. Sounds like a great way to spend some quality time!
9. Sepak Takraw (Malayasia)
Sepak takraw is a sport that enjoys a particularly high profile in Malaysia and Thailand. The sport was first played in the 15th century and it has all but been adopted as the official sport of the monarchies of these 2 Southeast Asian countries. The name literally means “kick ball,” using the Malay word for “kick” and the Thai word for “ball.” It’s less like soccer though and more like volleyball. Two teams, each composed of 3 players, square off on opposite sides of a court divided by a net and then try to keep the ball aloft. The catch? You can’t use you hands. Sepak takraw players are only allowed to hit the ball with their feet, knees, or chin.
8. Hornussen (Switzerland)
The Swiss are known for a few things, but one thing they’re generally not known for is inventing Hornussen. A puck, the “hornuss” (hornet), is tossed into the air by the striker, who hits the puck with a whip to launch it. The players on the opposing team then try to knock the puck out of the air with schindels, big placards on long sticks, that they toss into the air. Teams consist of 18 players and games are played in 4 quarters. Although Hornussen is an old sport (the first recorded incident is a complaint about 2 men playing on a Sunday in 1625), it’s only starting to gain recognition outside of Switzerland, with an international association founded in 2012.
7. Buzkashi (Afghanistan)
While this game is played across wide swaths of Central Asia, it’s the national sport of Afghanistan. The name literally means “goat bashing” in Turkish and it involves horse-mounted players attempting to drag a goat carcass toward a goal. In the past, games could last several days, but today’s matches have time limits. Riders typically wear heavy clothing and operate on an honor system, where they’re expected not to intentionally dismount other players or whip their competitors. In Afghanistan, the game was banned under Taliban rule, but is now being played again. Matches typically occur on Fridays and draw thousands of fans, with the most popular riders being sponsored by wealthy Afghanis. The sport is regulated by the Afghan Olympic Federation.
6. Camel Racing (Australia)
Australia certainly isn’t the only proponent of camel racing, but it does offer 2 of the biggest events: the Camel Cup, held yearly at Alice Springs, and the Boulia Desert Sands in Queensland, which boasts a $25,000 purse. Camels can run up to 65 km/h in sprints and at 40 km/h for about an hour. Camel racing, like horse racing, is a popular spectator sport and betting is encouraged. Competitors often come from areas of the Middle East, such as Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Camel beauty pageants are often held in conjunction with camel races, and some places have a marketplace and serve or sell camel products such as camel milk.
5. Bossaball (Spain)
Bossaball is a truly international kind of sport. It was created by a Belgian, first played in Spain and incorporates soccer, volleyball, gymanstics and Brazilian capoeira. The court consists of 2 trampolines on either side of a net, surrounded by an inflatable surface. One person from each team occupies the trampoline on their side of the net. One of these players is the attacker and they serve the ball. The opposing team must try to return the ball back over the net with no more than 5 contacts. Not only is it fun to play, but it also looks amazing, with competitors performing aerial acrobatics as they bounce around the court.
4. Ferret-legging (England)
This strange sport comes from Yorkshire, England, where it apparently originated among coal miners. Also known as “put ‘em down” and “ferret-down-trousers,” the sport is really more of an endurance test as competitors place live ferrets in their pants and trap them there by tying the ankle holes shut. Whoever can keep the ferret in their pants longest wins; the world record is 5 ½ hours! Some speculate that the sport may have arisen from a time when only the wealthy were allowed to keep animals for hunting, so poachers had to hide their ferrets. The sport has existed for a long time, but became quite popular in the 1970s, and was revived with a competition in Richard between 2003 and 2009.
3. Kabaddi (Bangladesh)
Kabbadi is a contact sport that mixes wrestling and capture the flag. During competition, a “raider” runs across the center line of the court and tries to tag players on the opposing team. The raider must not take another breath until they’ve returned to their side of the court, and will chant “kabaddi” under their breath to show that they haven’t inhaled. If they fail to tag a player on the opposite team, they won’t score a point. Kabbadi is popular in many countries, including India, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, but Bangladesh has embraced kabaddi as its national sport. Pro-leagues and cup competitions, including the Asia Kabaddi Cup and the Kabaddi World Cup, are increasing the sport’s profile around the world.
2. Capoeira (Brazil)
Sometimes known as the Dance of War, capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that blends dance, music and acrobatics into a thrilling match. When used for self-defense, capoeira incorporates many sweeps and low moves, but when used as a performance piece, it tends to focus on acrobatics and full cartwheels. Capoeira is almost always performed to music, which sets the tempo for the performance. Although its history is debated, capoeira seems to have evolved in Brazil among African slaves during the 19th century. Today, capoeira is inspiration for many fight scenes in popular movies and TV shows. There is even debate about capoeira’s influence on breakdancing, with some people seeing it as a forerunner sport.
1. Yukigassen (Japan)
Here’s a sport most kids could relate to: a giant snowball fight. That’s essentially what yukigassen is. It originated in Hokkaido, Japan, and the name literally means “snow battle.” Yukigassen is played between 2 teams, each with 7 players. When a player is hit with a snowball, they’re eliminated from the game. Safety precautions are key; players wear specialized helmets with face shields. Before a match, as many as 90 snowballs are made in advance. When the teams hit the court, the fun begins! Competitions are held in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Russia and Alaska today, with the World Championship held in Sobetsu, Hokkaido, every year.