Football and cricket dominate in the UK, but across the globe sports are as unique and numerous as the cultures that create them. Quick game of goat flinging, anyone?
Invented in the 13th century, buzkashi is played in the five ‘stans’ that make up Central Asia, as well as Afghanistan.
If you’re vegetarian or the slightest bit squeamish, jump to the next sport on this list – this is a game even the Taliban decided to ban…
Still here? Traditionally, two teams on horseback had to pick up the carcass of a headless goat and drop it into a shallow pit, known as the tai kazan, in the middle of the pitch.
In some sanitised versions, a loaded bag of lambskin is used, although you are still allowed to beat your opponents or their mount with a whip.
The sport was featured in the 2012 film Buzkashi Boys and the Netflix series Home Game.
Originating in Spain, bossaball is played on a combination of trampolines and inflatables between two four-a-side teams.
The inventor, Filip Eyckmans, was inspired by capoeria and footvolley in Brazil. It’s a spectacular sport combining elements of volleyball, football and gymnastics.
The pitch is divided by a volleyball-esque net, and the aim is to ground the ball on the opponent’s half – with a maximum of five touches allowed per team.
International tournaments have so far been dominated by Belgium and Holland, but it’s on the rise in South America.
A version of volleyball played with a rattan (a synthetic ball) in which you’re only allowed to use your feet, knees, chest or head.
Sepak takraw originated in Malaysia and is popular across South-East Asia – Thailand being far and away the most successful country.
The International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) is intent on growing the sport worldwide, having said it ultimately wants to see the game played at the Olympics.
A cross between ice hockey and field hockey, bandy is played on an ice rink with a curved stick and small ball.
It also has influences from the world of football – teams are 11-a-side and the game is made up of two 45-minute halves.
For many years, the only countries that participated in the World Championships were Sweden, Finland, Norway and Russia, but since 2014 at least 16 nations have been involved – including Mongolia, Netherlands and Somalia.
Man v Horse
An annual event dreamt up in that cauldron of good ideas: the pub.
In 1980 the landlord of the Neuadd Arms Hotel overhead two punters debating the merits of men racing against horses over mountainous terrain, and every year since – in the month of June – the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells hosts a race between runners and horse riders over a course of around 22 miles.
It took until 2004, when Huw Lobb triumphed, for a horse to be beaten.
Lawn Mower Racing
A true grass-roots sport, lawn mower racing was – and there’s a theme developing here – thought up in a West Sussex pub in 1973.
The main proviso is that the mower must have been originally designed, manufactured and sold commercially, to mow domestic lawns. In other words, you cannot purpose build a mower.
Races generally take place in May through to October, with competitions including the British Championship, World Championships, British Grand Prix and even a 12 Hour Endurance Race – twice won by five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell.
A team sport invented in 1891 by Richard J. Mecredy in County Wicklow, Ireland, cycle polo is, as you might have guessed, polo played on bikes.
Enthusiasts can now choose to play on grass or an alternative version called ‘hardcourt bike polo’, which is played (guessed again) on hard surface.
The sport is played in many countries all over the world, with the grass format dominated by India.
A contact sport contested by two seven-a-side teams, kabaddi is the national sport of Bangladesh and popular across Asia.
The object of the game is to tag out as many players on the opposition as possible. To do so, a single player – known as a raider – is sent into the opponents’ half, where they must tag as many defenders as they can without being tackled, before returning to their own half.
India have beaten Iran in all three World Cup finals, but at the last tournament – which had 12 participants, including England, Argentina, Poland and the United States – the two heavyweights both lost a game in the group stages.
Thought to have been invented in Spain, although the first organised tournament was on Dutch soil.
FootGolf is just like regular golf, only it’s played with a size 5 football. Players kick the ball around the course with the aim of sinking the ball into a hole around half a metre in diameter. The winner is the player to get round in the least number of shots.
Otherwise knowns as Octopush, this sub-aquatic activity was invented in 1950s Britain. It’s played by two teams of ten, in a 25 x 15-metre pool around three metres deep.
The idea is to use your stick, or pusher, to propel the puck into the oppositions’ goal. Players wear diving masks, snorkels and fins.
Words: Michael Renouf
Photography: Getty Images