View all articles by Rebeca Walsh
The game of buzkashi is an ancient game of Afghanistan. The origin of this game dates back to the days of Ghengis Khan of Afganishtan. It is being said that the Mongols played the game on the steppe, who lived and died in the saddle. Now, it is mostly played in the north of Afghanistan, including provinces of Maimana, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Kataghan. As per its rule, women are not allowed to watch the game.
Before the game, the carcass of a calf is soaked in cold water for 24 hours, so that it get tough enough for the horsemen. A calf is beheaded, and its four legs are cut off from the knee, and its insides are emptied before soaking. Sometimes, sand is packed inside a calf for making it extra bulk. If there is no calf available for it, a goat is used in the same manner.
Then, a hole is dug deep and the calf is put in it into the level of the ground. A circle is drawn near to the hole with quicklime, which is called hallal, or the "circle of justice" in Turkomen. There are two pole on the both right and left sides of the hallal. There is no definite distance for these poles. Originally, the game was played on the steppe and riders or chopendoz would gallop all day. But, in modern days, it is played in a field with proper size , where riders encircle the pit containing the calf and on a given signal, would attempt to grab it and gallop away around one post then the other before depositing it in the "circle of justice".
The other riders try to prevent that by attacking the rider and try to steal the calf. The rider who deposits the calf into the "circle of justice" is considered to be the winner. During the game, the riders wear high leather boots, a padded jacket over a long chapan and a fur hat traditionally made of fox or wolf skin. They also carry short whips which are made up of a handle attached to a piece of wood that are about a foot long. These are encased in leather. The riders whip their horses, as well as the other riders, especially the one who carries the calf.
In olden days, the whips were made up of a handle attached to thongs tied to balls of lead. The riders in those days also used to carry a knife and sometimes stabbed an opponent's horse or the rider when attempting to steal the calf. But, now the game is quite civilized, however riders still get hurt, but they are a tough breed of men.
The Buzkashi horses have special qualities, such as when the rider falls off the horse, it waits there for the horseman to mount it again. Some of these horses gallop with a terrific speed as soon as the horseman snatches the carcass of a calf as they have already learned the tricks. Buzkashi horses are also fed with special food, such as eggs and butter at regular intervals. And their normal food consists of oats and barley.