Obscure Sports from Around the World?

Years ago, I was working for a month in a very, very small rural town in Oklahoma. I was asking one of the locals what they do for fun.
“Well, it’s kinda childish,” he said. “But we play CB Tag.”
It’s essentially playing Tag. Except one person is It, they drive to a hiding spot, then send clues over their CB radio. When they get found, everyone drives back to home base as quickly as possible. The last person to get there is It for the next round.

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This looks downright brutal. Has to be a hell of a workout.

While semi-lost in the Guanacaste Mountains somewhere between Montenegro and Herradura, Costa Rica, the bus my friends and I were on made an unscheduled stop at a plaza the size of half a football field, where five or six small houses faced each other in a semi-circle. There was a fiesta and, since everyone got off the bus and it looked like we were staying for a while, we were automatically invited. (The bus had also stopped in the town at the foot of the mountain we were now on to watch a soccer match.) The enclave hung off the side of the mountain above the clouds.

Soon after we arrived some of the guests mounted horses. A ladder was brought to the middle of the plaza. On what I assumed had been a communal clothesline that stretched the width of the plaza, people climbed the ladder and hung small steel rings hung from ribbons. I can’t remember exactly the process, but I believe there were three rings hung for each rider with smaller and smaller circumferences, the largest being no more than a half an inch or so.

Each rider had a small, carved lance that they would hold palm up and charge at the ring. I remember being astounded at the skill and accuracy required to snatch a ring, like the Tico version of catching a housefly midair with chopsticks. I also remember, being a North American kid from a working class family, just out of high school, the whole otherworldy-ness of it all. Being there through pure chance and experiencing what to me was an absolute spectacle encapsulated everything I imagined travel could be. I had walked out of the everyday and in to one of the National Geographics I had poured over month after month for time immemorial.

It was the first time I had left my country and visited another.

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Pallone col bracciale has been played in North-Western Italy since the Renaissance. The rules are basically similar to tennis but played over much longer distances, with the players using spiked wooden gauntlet/clubs to hit a heavy ball back and forth. YouTube

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Have to agree that Takraw as one of the most intense, amazing games I have ever seen. I was traveling on business in Bangkok and saw a few neighborhood guys playing on a rooftop court. The agility and athleticism they displayed was unbelievable - like watching volleyball being played with only your feet. Must see!

Well, it’s obscure in the US, but very popular in Asia - dragon boating! It’s a 2000 year old Chines sport - I’ve been part of a team for around five years. It’s more popular on the west coast of the US and in Canada. Here’s a link - nice video from the Kelowna club: YouTube

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Don’t forget the National Sport of Mexico - Jai Alai. When I was there only professionals were allowed to play as it is so dangerous.

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The Inuit One-Foot-High-Kick requires incredible strength, control, and precision. The goal is to kick a suspended ball with one foot while in the air and then land on that same foot. It’s considered the most difficult of the Inuit games.

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Colorado’s State Summer Heritage Sport: Pack burro racing: Pack burro racing - Wikipedia

The burros aren’t ridden…they are carrying some equipment…but racers run next to the burro for the entire distance.

We even have a triple crown which includes the 29 mile race from Fairplay to the top of Mosquito Pass (13,190 feet) from the east side. The Fairplay race is followed the next week by the 22 mile Leadville race which races to the top of the same pass from the west side. The third leg of the triple crown is the short 12 mile Buena Vista race.

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AUSTUS was a hybrid form of football taking in elements of both American football and Australian rules football, and was created during WW2 so that Australian and American servicemen in Australia could play the same sport. It was similar to Australian rules football, but as well as kicking the ball, players were allowed to throw the ball forward as in American football, although goals had to be kicked within 20 metres of the goalposts. Here is a link to the only known surviving footage of AUSTUS being played.

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That’s such a cool story.

Kabbadi! I invite you to watch a game with the sound off, and try to figure out what the rules are.

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Also… Pesapallo, Finnish baseball:

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Strange sports was a fruitful topic for projects with multinational students I met and taught here in the UK last summer! (Fruitful in terms of both teaching English and in learning about wildly diverse cultures!)

I tried to teach a few of them how to play cricket (a highly obscure sport if you come from a non-Commonwealth country) and crafted some classroom language learning around it. What was even weirder and more entertaining was a project where students had to research unusual sports and competitions from around the World. It was a lot of fun and we all learnt a lot about such unique activities as sumo baby crying contests and a sorta-kinda one-legged hopping Omani variation on sumo shoving.

As for obscure sports that I’ve actually got experience of, we had a PE teacher at high school who made us play his version of Danish Longball. A hybrid of rounders, dodgeball and British bulldog, two teams take it in turns as the batting side and the catching/fielding side. At either end of the active playing area there are two safe zones and the bowler (pitcher) and fielders stand in the middle. (We played this in a school sports hall, so the playing area was enclosed by the walls that ran down both sides. It turned into something of a cauldron or like a corridor you have to fight your way down.)

The batter steps up and hits the dodgeball-style ball thrown at them by the bowler with their hand. If it’s caught without bouncing, they’re out. Otherwise, the challenge is to hit the ball and then run to the other end of the playing area. If they reach that safe zone without a fielder getting the ball, throwing it at them and hitting them (dodgeball style) under the neck then they’re safe. If they are hit beneath the neck, they’re gone. They then have to either stay in the safe zone or run back to the other side, where they can hit again when they’re up on the block. This continues until there’s no one standing ready to bat or until everyone has been caught or hit out.

If I remember rightly, that’s how we played it but Wikipedia suggests a game with many differences. (For a start, they have actual bats!) Regardless, it was a lot of fun in spite of the fact that it was brutal and intense! Hormone-raging high school teens given an excuse to throw stuff at their peers will inevitably take no prisoners…

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Do drinking games count?

I guess if it’s a sport, which I’m sure some people consider them.

Then I give you… Hammershlagen. An old German game/sport updated converted to a drinking game.


I apologize in advance for the cringe inducing bro level of this video. It was the best one I could find that combined both rules and gameplay footage.
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Reiska World Championship 2019 in Vesanto, Finland – “football with slippers on”.

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I’m sure how obscure it is, especially in Afghanistan, but Buzkashi is an amazing sport with very few rules except in the Olympic version. Picture a large field with dozens of people on horse back all chasing after a goat carcass, whipping both the horses and other riders; the winner gets $10, and then the chaos starts over again. Spectators and concession stalls alike run out of the way when the horses head your direction. It’s free to enter, but it’s one of the most dangerous sports in the world.

I watched a match in January, and had no idea what was going on most of the time but it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

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Flaming puck unicycle hockey! Invented in Toronto, Canada (of course!) by Darrin Bedford, it’s a summer hockey game played on unicycles on pavement w/a special puck that’s dunked in a flammable fluid and set on fire just before play. (The flame makes a nice blue flame line as you hit it to start the game). Regular ice hockey rules apply–sticks down, etc. We played this game at NAUCC some years ago, and it’s crazy fun on a unicycle! Video by www.justonewheel.com https://youtu.be/AoVJBWW_Q7c Also: https://images.app.goo.gl/DNSCVJuJF21UgUqb7flaming%20puck%20unicycle%20hockey

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