There are plenty of sports out there, and plenty of weird sports at that. Take Australian Rules Football, for instance, or Boot Tossing. However, there are none in the world as bizarre, as unhinged and downright potty as the 10 sports listed here. Whether you consider the sheer madness of the 'rules' or the troubling levels of injury permitted, all of these sports are more than a little off the wall. So please sit back in your chair, content that you don’t ever have to take part, and join us as we consider the 10 most bizarre contact sports on earth.
10. The Eton Wall Game
It’s a well known fact that Great Britain has some of the oldest and best schools in the world, and as this list will prove, it is also apparent that they have some of the most bizarre sports. Eton College is one of Britain's most esteemed hotbeds of rich, affluent youngsters, and one of the games they’ve been playing there for over two centuries is the Eton Wall Game. Players pack together against a slightly curved wall and compete as part of two opposing teams to get a ball out of the scrum and into the enemy’s goal. The game predominantly takes place against the wall, with the constant crabbing back and forth of the scrum resulting in devastating friction burns for those boys unlucky enough to find themselves sandwiched. There are two ways to score points, the simpler being to control the ball against the wall with one's foot and catch it with one's hand, which results in 1 point. The second way is to get the ball to touch the goal, for 9 points, which is a feat so infinitely difficult that in 100 years of the infamous St Andrews Day game not one person has achieved it.
9. Chess Boxing
This next game was devised as the ultimate test of brains and brawn. As obvious as it sounds, the game simply consists of a balanced, round-by-round mixture of Chess and Boxing. It was initially conceived in 1992 by French graphic novelist Enki Bilal, having appeared in his novel Froid Equateur. The idea was picked up by artist Iepe Rubingh, who decided to recreate the game himself, becoming the chess boxer ‘Iepe the Joker.’ Since then the game has taken off, with high profile fans such as the Wu Tang Clan’s RZA promoting it. Winning is achieved through either knockout or checkmate, with a four-minute limit on chess moves and a three-minute boxing round.
8. Shin Kicking
The Cotswold Olimpick Games – a strange British tradition dating back many centuries - plays host to the bizarre sport of Shin Kicking. Contestants stuff the legs of their pants with straw and proceed to lock their arms with each other’s shoulders and kick the living daylights out of their opponents' shins. The competition is essentially a brutal endurance test, with the final game played out by whichever two bloodied, beaten and probably slightly drunk men manage to get that far. Each competitor wears the traditional white smocks of Cotswold shepherds, although it has been alluded to in historical texts that in days of yore shin kickers fought in the nude (suffice to say, there seems to have been no attempted revival of a nudist Shin Kicking tournament to date). The game dates back to 17th century England, where it was a pastime for the rural working communities of the West Country every year. By the time the English Civil War had ended in 1651, the puritan Oliver Cromwell had had the game banned, and it was not to reappear until the 19th century.
7. Cheese Rolling
Another traditional game from Great Britain, Cheese Rolling (officially known as the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake) is not only as mad as a March hare, it’s also incredibly dangerous. The rules are very simple: the people of Brockworth, England gather at the local Cooper’s Hill and proceed to chase a rolling wheel of Double Gloucester cheese down an intensely steep slope. Every year there are scores of injuries as the competitors attempt to beat each other to the finish line and emerge as the winner – of the cheese. In fact, at one point in 2006 the second race had to be postponed whilst ambulances returned from the local hospital after scraping up the survivors of the first race! The game has been played for around 200 years, and attracts competitors and spectators from across the globe. It is such a revered tradition that when it was officially canceled in 2010 around 500 people snubbed the law and turned up to play anyway without any safety precautions. You can’t say the British aren’t determined.
If not the most bizarre on face value, this is easily the most disturbingly dangerous game we can think of. With prehistoric origins lying in traditional Gaelic sports such as Shinty, Hurling is a game for two distinct types of people: those who are tough, and those who are stupid. There is no room for bravery in this unwisely perilous mix of Golf, Soccer, Rugby, Lacrosse, Hockey and Wrestling. The balls can travel at speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and it was only earlier this year that the powers that be finally made it a requirement to wear a protective helmet. Indeed, it was reputed that many players chose to retire instead of embracing the new legislations. Players can employ a number of tactics in order to snatch the ball from one another, and tackling can get fairly intense. Deaths are not unknown in the history of Hurling.
5. Wife Carrying
There are a few theories on the origin of Wife Carrying, a highly physical Finnish sport practiced for a good 200 years. All, however, are based around a thief named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, who lived in the forest with his gang of thieves in the 1800s. The most famous hypothesis revolves around his gang of merry men reputedly stealing women from nearby villages and carrying them to the hideout on their backs for a night of illicit pleasure. Another claims that Herkko trained his men to be strong by forcing them to carry heavy sacks through the woods, and that this practice ultimately evolved to become a sport with an unusual twist. One way or another, Wife Carrying is taken deadly seriously in Finland. The rules of the sport stipulate that a wife must be one’s own, or one’s neighbor, and that if the wife is under 49 kg she must carry a backpack with sufficient additional weight as to make the weight add up to 49 kg. The track to be raced on must be 253.5 meters long, and the winners are the couple who cross the finish line first.
4. Calcio Fiorentino
An early variant of soccer, itself based on an ancient Roman game, Calcio Fiorentino is a brutal sport for tough, tough guys. Each team is comprised of 27 players, who are required to get the ball through a perimeter goal at each end of the pitch to score points. The manner in which one can get hold the ball is the most arrestingly treacherous feature of the game, the only methods barred being full punches to the face and kicks to the head. Choking, headbutting and body blows are all permitted. Originally it was a sport for rich, young Italian aristocrats, and three popes were even known to play it in the Vatican at one point, but as you can probably imagine this is no longer the case. As with many of these age old sports, Calcio Fiorentino fell out of fashion for a couple of centuries, only to be revived in the modern age. Nowadays it is played annually and attracts some of the hardest gentlemen in Italy.
3. Underwater Hockey
Also known as Octopush, underwater hockey has been played since 1954, when it was invented by Englishman Alan Blake as a way to keep members of his diving club busy during the winter months when it was too cold to dive in the ocean. Since then, the eight-person underwater goal sport has taken off in a big way. It is internationally recognized as a legitimate sport, and has an international championship bi-annually. Players chase a lead puck on the bottom of the pool, their gloved hands holding a sort of short version of a hockey stick. They have to get the puck (known as a ‘squid’) into the goal (known as a ‘gulley’). The game consists of two halves of ten to fifteen minutes each, and has been described – somewhat understandably – as not particularly spectator friendly. Maybe not quite the contact sport ice hockey is but pretty physical nonetheless.
A sport that can only be described as a mix of Polo and Football, but with a headless animal’s torso instead of a ball. Buzkashi is played across Asia, in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, northern Pakistan and
Kazakhstan. It even has its own version in the USA. The aim is to ride a horse towards a large dead animal and reach down to grab it from the floor at high speed. The rider in possession must then ride clear of the others and get the carcass past a goal line or into a goal circle before he can be stripped of the unfortunate beast by his opponents. The headless animal in question is usually a calf, specially prepared by being hollowed out, beheaded and having its appendages cut off. In order to harden the body and prevent disintegration, it is soaked in water before a game and packed with sand. As you may have worked out, the game is fairly intense. Matches can go on for days as there is a lack of a given time limit, and when a handful of determined men on horses scrum together to fight over the body it can become seriously dangerous. The game is huge in countries such as Afghanistan, and experienced players are revered local figures.
1. Royal Shrovetide Football
Every Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, in the English village of Ashbourne, a game takes place which has been an ongoing tradition since the 1300s. The village is split into two halves based on the birthplace of the villager: those born on the north of the river are Up’Ards; those on the south are Down’Ards. The massive crowd gathers in the center of the village and a ball is released. What ensues is the most chaotic and unruly sport in the world. The aim is for one's team to score by ‘goaling’ the ball against one of two millstones on either side of the village. The few rules that exist equate to ‘don’t kill anyone’ and ‘don’t drive away with the ball.’ It has been rumored that the origins of the game lie in the tossing of a severed head into the crowd following an execution. Either way, the game has quite a name for itself in Britain, having received wide coverage in recent years. It also achieved royal status after a visit from the Prince of Wales in the 1920s.