Kok-Boru, the Horse Game You Won’t See at the Olympics

In Kyrgyzstan, traditional horse games offer a glimpse into Central Asia’s nomadic past

Kok-boru is a popular horse game in Kyrgyzstan in which two teams of riders try to carry a goat or calf carcass into the opposing teams endzone. (© Igor Kovalenko / epa / Corbis)

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Good, I said, although it was a shame that no career shepherds had participated or attended. I knew the festival had been tourist-oriented, but if horse games are so popular in Kyrgyzstan, wouldn’t a handful of shepherds have jumped at the chance to watch live kok-boru?

Obolbekov chuckled.

“In the summers, shepherds go into the mountains,” he said. “They’re busy!”

Mike Ives is a writer based in Hanoi, Vietnam. His website is www.mikeivesetc.com.


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