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Buzkashi (from Persian بزکشی buzkashi, buz "goat" + kashi "drawing") is a traditional Afghan sport, played from horseback. The name translates literally to "goat grabbing", implying that the game originated in the ancient practice of horseback goat-nabbing during the times of Aryans. The Aryans were skilled horse-riders who could swoop up a goat while riding a horse at full gallop. The goal of a Buzkashi player is to grab the carcass of a calf, and then get it clear of the other players, or pitch it across a goal line.

Competition is typically fierce, as other players may use any force short of tripping the horse in order to thwart scoring attempts (though the use of knives or guns is discouraged). Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves from players' whips and boots. Games can last for several days.

The game consists of two main forms: Tudabarai and Qarajai. Tudabarai is considered to be the simpler form of the game; in this style, the goal is simply to grab the calf and move in any direction until clear of the other players. In Qarajai, players must carry the carcass around a flag or marker at one end of the field, then throw it into a scoring circle at the other end.

The calf in a Buzkashi game is normally beheaded, disemboweled and its limbs cut off, then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Occasionally sand is packed into the carcass to give it extra weight. Players may not strap the calf to their bodies or saddles.

Serious Buzkashi players train intensively for years, and many of the masters (called chapandaz) are over forty years old. Playing well also requires specially trained horses that know to stop still when a rider is thrown, and to gallop forcefully when their rider gets hold of the calf.

The game is the core and subject of a novel by French Novelist Joseph Kessel titled Les Cavaliers as well as of the film of the same title featuring Omar Sharif .

The pictures that follow were taken near the village of Elghonok in the Big Pamir. A buzkashi was organized to celebrate a wedding that happened that same day. The buzkashi attracted a few dozen horsemen from Elghonok and neighboring villages. The game was open to any adult men and lasted a couple of hours. Children and old men were able to watch the game from a stand that had been set up for that matter.

For more information on buzkashi check Afghan sport: buzkashi by Larry B. Lambert, The Fierce Afghani Game of Buskashi by Mr. Ginger or Afghanistan National Sport (Buzkashi) by Afghanistan Online.


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