21 bizarre sports that people play around the world

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Reuters/Alexandra Beier

Baseball may be America’s pastime, but citizens of other countries are entertaining themselves in different ways.

Cultural tradition has informed a whole range of strangely fascinating sports around the world – balancing on bamboos, for example, or wrestling on horses.

While some games are unique to a particular country, others can be found in several nations in a given region.

From cheese-rolling in New Zealand to wife-carrying in Finland, here are some of the world’s wackiest games.


In Guatemala City, performers are seen taking part in an exhibition game of the Mayan Ball (or Maya Ball) game, which involves getting a solid rubber ball through a set of rings without using one’s hands.

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Reuters/Daniel Leclair

Musangwe boxing is an age-old tradition in northern South Africa. Men and boys display their fighting skills in an all-out battle with only three rules: the struggle continues until blood is shed, someone is knocked out, or a fighter surrenders by raising his hand.

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Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Source: BBC


The annual Shrovetide football match in Ashbourne, central England, consists of teams — the Up’ards and the Down’ards — trying to score by tapping the ball on stone goal plinths three times.

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Reuters/Darren Staples

Pictured here is Jockey Samuel Cudjoe running his goat over the finish line at the Class C2 100-meter race. The goat-racing event is part of Trinidad and Tobago’s annual Easter celebration.

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Reuters/Andrea De Silva

In summer, hundreds of people flock to Malta to participate in the tricky game of trying to climb a “gostra,” a pole covered in grease. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the game requires participants to make their way to the top of the slippery pole and uproot a flag to win prizes.

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Reuters/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Kabbadi is a game popular in India and Iran. Two teams that occupy opposite halves of a field try to tag as many opposing players as they can while repeating the word “Kabbadi.”

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Reuters/Ajay Verma

The Chitwan Elephant Festival in Chitwan, Nepal, includes ox-cart, horse-car, and canoe races, as well as other games that involve elephants.

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Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar

Sepak Takraw is a sport native to Southeast Asia. Players must use any part of their bodies — besides their hands and arms — to send a rattan ball into the opposing court. The exact rules can vary depending on where the game is being played.

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Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Fingerhakln is the name given to a traditional finger-pulling competition played in Germany. Two opponents sitting across from each other at a table hook their middle fingers into a leather ribbon and pull the other over the table’s center line. The sport even has different weight classes of light, middle, semi-heavy, and heavyweight.

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Reuters/Alexandra Beier

Source: Daily Mail


The game of Lelo dates back 300 years and is played once a year during Orthodox Easter celebrations in Shukhuti, Georgia. A 18-kilogram ball is filled with sawdust by locals, and at 5 p.m. it is thrown into the center of the village by the priest. The objective is for two different teams to try and push the ball into the opposing teams’ end of the village.

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Reuters/David Mdzinarishvili

Source: The Guardian


Cheese rolling hails from Britain, but it’s also played in New Zealand. Large cheese wheels are rolled down the hill, and the person who catches the cheese gets to keep it.

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Reuters/Simon Baker

Every year, dogs are taken to Imperial Beach in San Diego, California, to participate in the Unleashed by Petco Surf Dog Competition. According to Reuters, all proceeds go to benefit the San Diego Humane Society.

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Reuters

Click here to learn more about the competition »


Palin is a traditional game from the Mapuche people of Chile and Argentina. The game is complex, but it basically involves two teams wielding curved sticks smacking a ball toward the end of the field to score. The game is more often considered a tradition than a competition, however.

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Reuters/Rodrigo Garrido

Every August, residents of Kosovo gather to participate in the Rugova Traditional Games. The games include tree climbing, stone throwing, wrestling, and tug-of-war.

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Reuters/Hazir Reka

Click here to learn more about the Rugova Traditional Games »


In Kyrgyzstan, men wrestle while riding horses as part of the national horse games and festival.

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Reuters/Vladimir Pirogov

Hornussen, a kind of mixture between golf and baseball, is a Swiss sport dating back to the 16th century. There are two teams, and the batting team has to hit a puck called a Nouss as far as possible into the opponent’s area.

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Reuters/Ruben Sprich

Source: Switzerland Tourism


The opposing team has to stop the Nouss as soon as possible by using a shingle, or catch board. The team with the smallest number of penalization points at the end of the game wins.

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Reuters/Ruben Sprich

Source: Switzerland Tourism


Single bamboo drifting was added to the Chinese Traditional Games of Ethnic Nationalities in Guangzhou, China, several years ago. It involves standing on seven-meter-long bamboo poles and using a thinner bamboo as an oar to glide through the water.

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Reuters/Joe Tan

The sport of wife carrying was born in Finland. Male competitors must carry their female teammates while conquering an obstacle course.

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Reuters/Lehtikuva Lehtikuva

The Highland Games are an honorary tradition in Scotland. Activities include the hammer throw — using a handle or wooden pole to whirl a 16-to-22-pound hammer around one’s head, and then throwing it as far as possible.

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Reuters/Russell Cheyne

Source: Scotland.org


Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, and it’s common throughout Central Asia. The game is like tug-of-war, but it’s played on horseback with a goat skin. Teams compete to grab the carcass, circle the field, and deliver it to the goal.

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Reuters/STRINGER Mongolia

Source: NPR