Video of the Week: Kok Boru (Goat Polo) at the World Nomad Games in Kyrgyzstan

In this week’s Video of the Week, check out the sport of Kok Boru, or goat polo, at the World Nomad Games held in Kyrgyzstan. The games were initiated by the Kyrgyzstan government in 2012 to help revive and preserve the culture of nomadic civilization. The first event took place in 2014 in Cholpon-Ata in the Issyk-Kul province of Kyrgyzstan. This year’s games took place September 3 to 8 in Cholpon-Ata with over 3,000 athletes from 77 countries participating. In this video, athletes compete in Kok Boru, where the aim is to get a goat or calf carcass into a goal.

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Photo Friday: World Nomad Games Held in Kyrgyzstan

The World Nomad Games, held in Kyrgyzstan on September 3-8, drew participants from 40 countries, most of them from former Soviet Union. Competitions were held in over 20 different sports, including archery  and javelin throwing, horse racing and several kinds of wrestling (some between individuals who stand in a ring, another between mounted riders).  A sort of polo played with the headless body of a dead goat, known in Afghanistan as buzkashi and as kok-boru in Kyrgyzstan, is a particular favorite. A board game, toguz, somewhat similar to chess, is a less physical form of competition.

This event was the second World Nomad Games, following the first event in September 2014. This year’s event, like the earlier one, was held at Cholpon-Ata in Naryn Province of Kyrgyzstan, a small town on the southern shore of Lake Issyk-Kul, with striking views of the glacier-capped peaks of the Tien Shan.

These photographs demonstrate the vigor of the nomad traditions and the excitement of the participants. They document the importance of horses in nomad cultures, and demostrate other skills as well that have developed over the centuries among the pastoral populations who inhabit the high-elevation grasslands, many of them watered by glacier melt.

American and Russian teams playing kok-buro (source: Ronan Shenhav/FLickr)
American and Russian teams playing kok-boru (source: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)


Kyrgyz men in traditional hats, watching the games (source:Ronan Shenhez/Flickr)
Kyrgyz men in traditional hats, watching the games (source:Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)


Two men reaching for a goat carcass (source: Altainovosti/Twitter)
Two men reaching for a goat carcass in a game of kok-boru (source: Altainovosti/Twitter)


Kyrgyz and Chinese teams playing kok-buro (sourde: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)
Kyrgyz and Chinese teams playing kok-boru (source: Ronan Shenhav/Flickr)