Goat polo and falcon hunting

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September 19th 2010
Published: September 26th 2010
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Today we had the pleasure of watching a falcon hunting demonstration and a game of Kok-boru or Ulak Tartysh (goat polo) which is a national sport of Kyrgyzstan. The falcon hunting was interesting, but it was more or less feeding a bunny to a falcon rather than actual hunting. Tough for the bunny, but I guess it's really no different than feeding animals in a zoo.

The goat polo was really a sight to be seen. Basically, they kill a goat, remove the head and hooves, then use the goat's carcass for the game. The teams battle for posession of the goat carcass like rugby on horseback. The object of the game is to toss the goat onto the opposing team's goal (a ring of tires). It sounds brutal, and it is. But, the goat is killed quickly and humanely just as it would be if it was being served for dinner. The riders and horses are true atheletes. It's amazing what these guys can do on horseback, and a goat carcass is not exactly the lightest thing to be slinging around. Really, you have to witness the game to gain a true appreciation for it. It's not for everybody, but it is as much a part of their culture as hockey or football/soccer is for us.

They played three periods of 15 minutes each and with the game tied at 3-3, they went on to a "shoot-out". Basically the teams would alternate chances at the goal with a rider from the opposing team defending. It appeared surprisingly difficult to toss a goat carcass into a circle of tires at full speed on horseback (note that the goat had to stay in the rings to count) as neither team was able to score in the shoot-out and the game ended in a draw. When the game was finished both teams shook hands and we were on our way. As we left, the teams apparently unsatisfied with a tie, started up a second game. All we can say is "wow".

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