Goat Dragging or Buzkashi is a popular Afghan sport played on horseback in central Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, northern Pakistan, India and Kazakhstan. Buzkashi can be compared to the game of Polo – there are two teams and players ride on horses, just like in Polo, but instead of the ball is used a carcass of a headless goat or calf.
The goal of the game is to grab the carcass and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle. Competition is typically fierce, as other players may use any force short of tripping the horse in order to thwart scoring attempts. The riders will carry a whip, often in their teeth, to fend off opposing horses and riders.
Riders usually wear heavy clothing and head protection to protect themselves against other players’ whips and boots. Games can last for several days, and the winning team receives a prize, not necessarily money, as a reward for their win.
The calf in a Buzkashi game is normally beheaded and disemboweled and has its limbs cut off at the knees. It is then soaked in cold water for 24 hours before play to toughen it. Occasionally sand is packed into the carcass to give it extra weight.
Serious Buzkashi players train intensively for years, and many of the masters (called chapandaz) are over forty years old. Playing well also requires specially trained horses that sell today for as much as US$10,000-15,000.