Horseplay and Goat Pulling: Buzkeshi

This past weekend we finally had the opportunity to see Buzkeshi. Due to the weather and laws regarding crowds in the region, we had been waiting for almost a month, as news of the game passes via word of mouth. Additionally, finding a game can also involve driving up a mountain asking around at each village for directions and then a hike to the field.

But some context about the sport: Buzkeshi n. buz-goat + keshi-pulling. A sport local only to Tajikistan and Afghanistan, it involves that the players, all riding on horses, attempt to carry a goat carcass through the goal. In order to win, the goal must be halal (acceptable, word used in Islamic law) as opposed to haram (forbidden, word also used in Islamic law). Seems simple? Every player is also hitting you as you attempt to carry the goat across the field (although usually there are secret alliances). The winner then receives a prize such as a camel or some nice rugs.

While watching the game often involves observing what appears to be stalled chaos from afar, occasionally, a player will break free with the goat, leading to a mad chase. Watching also allowed for me to break out the camera in order to capture the action:


A man with today’s prize approaches the field.


Men arrive with today’s goat.


Dragging today’s goat down to the field.


Players head towards the starting place, followed by an ambitious dog.


Watching the beginning of the game from afar.


Even children join in on the haberdashery.


A player breaks free with the goat, leading to an uphill chase.


A player rushes towards the action.


A close-up of a chaotic chase.


An old man takes a rest, while the action continues in the background.


Where’s Waldo? Buzkeshi edition.


Another player breaks free with the goat.


The game continues.



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