Buzkashi is an ancient equestrian sport played in Afghanistan that dates back to the 13th century. The rules are fairly simple– two opposing teams attempt to lift and carry the ‘boz’ to the scoring area (a circle drawn on the ground). The boz is a 150-lb goat or calf carcass that has been beheaded and gutted, then soaked in water overnight to toughen the hide.

The sport tests the horsemanship and strength of the riders, as well as the endurance of the horses. The competitions can be hard on both horses and riders, and can carry on for days or weeks.

In the past, the number of players were unlimited, as were their actions. Riders and horses were sometimes injured or even killed, with some players stabbing or whipping each other. The playing field was not restricted in size and could stretch for miles.

Riders dress in in tall leather boots, fur fox- or wolf-skin hats, and and quilted jackets, which help to protect them during competition.

Today it is slightly more civilized in some areas, since the Afghan Olympic committee has limited players to 10 per team, outlawed weapons (except for small whips) and holds Buzkashi games in stadiums.

The winner of a match receives prizes that have been donated by a sponsor. The prizes range from money to fine turbans and clothing.

The horses used– all stallions– are either the "Qataghan" pony or the taller horses from the steppes of Faryab and Balkh. They are trained to not trample fallen riders, to stand still and allow their rider to pick the carcass up, and to gallop full speed when their rider gets the carcass. They are generally trained for five years before they are allowed to compete.

Trained Buzkashi horses are priced at about 20,000 Afghanis, or $700-$25000 USD. They are often not owned by the players, but by rich men who watch the games.

Horse trainers will supplement the horses’ diets with eggs and butter. If a horse gets too fat, they will perform the ‘kantar’, which means tying the horse saddled and bridled in the hot sun every day for weeks. They believe the sun will burn away the fat and teach the horse patience.

"The origins of the game are perhaps lost in history, but some believe it was invented as a defense against the hordes of Genghis Khan who were very adept at sweeping down on an Afghan village on horseback and grabbing precious sheep and goats and other pillage at a full gallop. Other historians claim that the game was played originally with the body of a dead prisoner of war."

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