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Chess-boxing, goat-bashing: weird sports you’ve never heard of

Popular games like hockey and football are great, but they are so prominent in our culture that it is easy to forget that there are other sports out there, some of which are delightfully weird.

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By Alex Rake (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 26, 2014

In the Dunner Derby, teams of five design and build their own outhouse-chariots. (Image: Richard West)

In the Dunner Derby, teams of five design and build their own outhouse-chariots. (Image: Richard West)

Popular games like hockey and football are great, but they are so prominent in our culture that it is easy to forget that there are other sports out there, some of which are delightfully weird.

Learning about the unusual not only helps to contextualize the usual, but it can refresh a bored mind. The following are some of the more wonderfully weird sports of the world.

Chess boxing

First developed by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh in 2003 after reading Froid Équateur (a French graphic novel by Enki Bilal), chess boxing is a hybrid sport intended to test both the brain and brawn of competitors. The World Chess Boxing Organization’s motto is “Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.” Players alternate between four-minute rounds of chess and two-minute rounds of boxing until somebody is KO’d or checkmated. Canadian filmmaker David Bitton is currently exploring the history and controversies surrounding the sport in a documentary called Chessboxing: The King’s Discipline, which he is funding through a Kickstarter campaign.

Dunny Derby

The Dunny Derby is a 250-metre toilet race held at the Outback Festival every second September in Winton, Australia. Teams of five design and build their own outhouse-chariots, which one person rides while the rest push and pull. Teams usually have a theme and dress up in costumes. Prizes are awarded to the winner of the race, the team with the best presentation, and the fastest or the slowest in what is called the “Constipation Stakes.”

There have also been similar Dunny Derbies in the US and UK. 

Octopush

Love hockey but hate ice? Underwater hockey, called “Octopush” in the UK, is the game for you. It is played in a swimming pool, between two teams of six. Players wear snorkels and handle a heavy puck at the bottom of the pool with tiny, paddle-like sticks called “pushers.” Because the game is played underwater, Octopush is not very spectator-friendly; organizers have been working to solve this problem recently.

A man named Alan Blake invented the sport in England in 1954 in order to keep his diving club active in the winter, and the first world championship was held in Vancouver in 1980.

Buzkashi

No longer will you have to let your leftover goat carcasses go to waste, thanks to the sport of buzkashi (literally “goat-bashing”). Usually consisting of two teams of four to five players on horseback competing to drag a goat carcass through a goal, there are many variations of this polo-like game; sometimes it’s a free-for-all where individual players compete for points, and the length of the game can be set anywhere from about an hour to several days. Played mostly in Central Asia, it is the national sport of Afghanistan. Interestingly, the Taliban banned buzkashi in Afghanistan during their rule, deeming it too cruel a game.

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