“Kok-boru”

Since ancient times, national competitions and games have been a favorite way of spending time of people living in Central Asia, none of the holidays did without them. Various horse riding competitions and games got wide popularity for their ability to develop strength, courage and adroitness in men. One of such contents is called “Kok-boru”. It is a national horse game of Central Asian nomads, known since the days of Genghis Khan. Gradually it became a favorite game of farmers. Nowadays, the game has become a sport that requires adroitness, courage and strength from men. The whole point of “Kok-boru” is to capture a goat’s carcass and take it to the finish first.

Traditionally, the game begins with a solemn oath of participants to play fair. Anyone who did not take such an oath is not allowed to the game. According to the rules, two teams, consisting of an equal number of riders (usually 3-4 people) participate in competitions. Game’s rules are quite strict. Riders aren’t allowed to gallop towards the stands with spectators, to knock other players down, to take away a captured trophy. Experienced players are respected and not poor people.

Formerly, games were held to commemorate important events: the birth of an heir, the victory over the enemy, the visit of important guests or the change of seasons. Nowadays horses are saddled for any occasion - whether it is Nooruz, a wedding or Independence Day of the Republic.

 “Kok-boru” requires a subtle, well thought-out tactics. The unity of a horse and a rider is one of the conditions for victory. There are no special breeds of horses for this game; the main requirements for a horse are its massiveness, speed and intelligence. The true sports horses are believed to make their own decisions during the game. Over the centuries, special techniques of horses’ selection and the methods of their training for competitions have developed.  There’re also certain requirements for horses’ equipment.

Despite its apparent simplicity, “Kok-boru” is technically not an easy game. Long and unwearied exercises are necessary to play it. That’s why the best "sportsmen” are usually older than forty years.

Some national peculiarities of the game:

“Kok-boru” can be translated from Kyrgyz as a“grey wolf”. The game originated in the mists of time, in those days, when herds pastured in the open air high in the mountains the whole year round. Due to the absence of necessary premises and additional fertilizing, cattle were often attacked by wolves, bringing misfortune to people. Because of the lack of firearms the shepherds had to fight hard with beasts. Courageous horsemen chased the wolf on swift and enduring horses beating it with sticks and whips within an inch of its life, picking it up from the ground, trying to take it away from each other. As for the game (“Kok-boru”), it served as a kind of training. Later on, when people led a settled lifestyle, the wolf was replaced by a goat carcass.

To play the game, a five/six year-old goat is needed. First it’s cut, the insides are taken out, later the belly is sewn, and then the carcass without head and hooves is thrown into the game. In the end, the winner gets the carcass along with other prizes. 

The most important thing is to choose a good place for playing. It can be a stadium or a large valley in the mountains. In the center of the playground a circle with a diameter of six meters is marked, a goat carcass is put there before the competitions. The goal is to throw the carcass into the opponent’s gates (modern version) or not allow a competitor to take it away.

It is known for sure, that aristocratic English polo appeared thanks to this game of Central Asian nomads.