Sports have always been a big part of human cultures, with many sports originating ages ago and being handed down to us today in their modern incarnations. We’re lucky enough to live in a time when a lot of us have a lot of free time, which means we’re constantly inventing and re-inventing sports, so it’s no surprise that the world of athletic competition sometimes takes a walk on the weird side of things. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean the world’s weirdest sports are new; in fact, many of the strangest ones were invented eons ago, before people had the Internet to entertain them.
A popular sport in Southeast Asia, this action-packed game resembles volleyball but instead of hands, players use their feet, knees, chest, and head to move the ball around, which is made from softwood. The International Sepak Takraw Federation holds competitions with teams from over a hundred different countries.
Sometimes known as the Dance of War, capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that blends dance, music and acrobatics into a thrilling match. When used for self-defense, capoeira incorporates many sweeps and low moves, but when used as a performance piece, it tends to focus on acrobatics and full cartwheels. Capoeira is almost always performed to music, which sets the tempo for the performance. Although its history is debated, capoeira seems to have evolved in Brazil among African slaves during the 19th century. Today, capoeira is an inspiration for many fight scenes in popular movies and TV shows. There is even debate about capoeira’s influence on breakdancing, with some people seeing it as a forerunner sport.
This sport was first described in the popular Harry Potter book series, which is meant to be played on flying broomsticks. Real-world enthusiasts have invented a land version that is played on a hockey field. The game first began in US colleges and has since spread across the states. Supporters refer to the game as muggle quidditch because muggles are what the series characters call non-magic folk.
The Swiss are known for a few things, but one thing they’re generally not known for is inventing Hornussen. A puck, the “hornuss” (hornet), is tossed into the air by the striker, who hits the puck with a whip to launch it. The players on the opposing team then try to knock the puck out of the air with scandals, big placards on long sticks, that they toss into the air. Teams consist of 18 players and games are played in 4 quarters. Although Hornussen is an old sport (the first recorded incident is a complaint about 2 men playing on a Sunday in 1625), it’s only starting to gain recognition outside of Switzerland, with an international association founded in 2012.
This sport began in South Australia in the small fishing community of Port Lincoln. It was inspired by the local fishermen who would toss fish onto their trucks with force and started being used as a way to spice up a local festival. The winner is the person who manages to throw a 20-pound fish the furthest. Nowadays the competition has become somewhat cleaner: participants use rubber fish instead.
This sport is similar to arm wrestling with players attempting to pin down their opponent's toes for three seconds. Players play with their bare feet alternating between their left and right feet and play the best of three rounds. There are separate divisions for men and women. The World Toe Wrestling Championship has been ongoing since the 1970s and enjoys growing participation.
This unlikely combination of sports involves brains and brawn. Competitors play 11 alternating rounds of chess and boxing for three minutes each. This little-known sport has fans in Germany, India, Russia, and the UK.
While this game is played across wide swaths of Central Asia, it’s the national sport of Afghanistan. The name literally means “goat bashing” in Turkish and it involves horse-mounted players attempting to drag a goat carcass toward a goal. In the past, games could last several days, but today’s matches have time limits. Riders typically wear heavy clothing and operate on an honor system, where they’re expected not to intentionally dismount other players or whip their competitors. In Afghanistan, the game was banned under Taliban rule but is now being played again. Matches typically occur on Fridays and draw thousands of fans, with the most popular riders being sponsored by wealthy Afghanis. The sport is regulated by the Afghan Olympic Federation.
Hotdog Eating Contests
One of the more prominent forms of competitive eating, the rules involve participants trying to eat as many hot dogs as they can in a ten minute period. The sport began in US county fairs and has gained recognition due to Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest, held annually on the 4th of July. The sport has spawned a huge industry and enjoys popularity in the US, Canada, and Japan.
Man vs. Horse Marathon
This marathon began as a way to settle a pub argument in 1979 when Welsh locals Gordon Green and Glyn Hones wondered who would win a marathon - a horse or a man. Ever since then, an annual 22-mile (35.4 km) marathon is held in Welsh Town, Wales with both men and horses running. Men have won on two occasions, but it is usually the horses that emerge as victors. If a human wins, they are eligible to win a $40,000 cash prize.
Australia certainly isn’t the only proponent of camel racing, but it does offer 2 of the biggest events: the Camel Cup, held yearly at Alice Springs, and the Boulia Desert Sands in Queensland, which boasts a $25,000 purse. Camels can run up to 65 km/h in sprints and at 40 km/h for about an hour. Camel racing, like horse racing, is a popular spectator sport and betting is encouraged. Competitors often come from areas of the Middle East, such as Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Camel beauty pageants are often held in conjunction with camel races, and some places have a marketplace and serve or sell camel products such as camel milk.
Held in East Dublin, Georgia every summer since 1996, this athletic event involves unique sports you might not usually see in any other sporting context. Some of the events include toilet seat tossing, seed spitting, mud belly flops, armpit serenades, and dumpster diving.
In Kenya, there is a race called “To Hell’s Gate on a Wheelbarrow”, which is named after the national park that holds the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) racecourse. Funds raised from this fun event go to conservation efforts for the park.
Bossaball is a truly international kind of sport. It was created by a Belgian, first played in Spain and incorporates soccer, volleyball, gymnastics and Brazilian capoeira. The court consists of 2 trampolines on either side of a net, surrounded by an inflatable surface. One person from each team occupies the trampoline on their side of the net. One of these players is the attacker and they serve the ball. The opposing team must try to return the ball back over the net with no more than 5 contacts. Not only is it fun to play, but it also looks amazing, with competitors performing aerial acrobatics as they bounce around the court.
While this activity sounds like it could be a race held in a quaint European town, this sport enjoys global appeal. The game has its origins in Finland where local women were commonly abducted. The World Wife Carrying World Championship has teams competing from Australia, Germany, Great Britain, Estonia, Ireland, and the United States. The United States team is highly competitive: participants need to win their state championship to qualify for the global championship. Despite the title, any team of two can participate.
Every August, over a hundred swimmers from across the globe meet up in the Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells to take part in the annual World Bog Snorkeling Championships. All participants need to wear flippers and snorkels, and have to complete two lengths of the 60-yard trench without using any traditional swimming strokes whatsoever!
This strange sport comes from Yorkshire, England, where it apparently originated among coal miners. Also known as “put ‘em down” and “ferret-down-trousers,” the sport is really more of an endurance test as competitors place live ferrets in their pants and trap them thereby tying the ankle holes shut. Whoever can keep the ferret in their pants longest wins; the world record is 5 ½ hours! Some speculate that the sport may have arisen from a time when only the wealthy were allowed to keep animals for hunting, so poachers had to hide their ferrets. The sport has existed for a long time, but became quite popular in the 1970s, and was revived with competition in Richard between 2003 and 2009.
Here's one that's absolutely nuts! Extreme ironing is a type of extreme sport where people take clothes and ironing boards to remote or dangerous locations to do a spot of ironing. According to the Extreme Ironing Bureau, extreme ironing is "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt."
A yearly event that takes place in Gloucester, England it the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling & Wake. This event involves participants rolling a 9-pound cheese wheel down an incredibly steep hill, and chasing after it. The first person to reach the bottom (in one piece) actually gets to take the cheese wheel home!
Kabbadi is a contact sport that mixes wrestling and captures the flag. During the competition, a “raider” runs across the centerline of the court and tries to tag players on the opposing team. The raider must not take another breath until they’ve returned to their side of the court, and will chant “kabaddi” under their breath to show that they haven’t inhaled. If they fail to tag a player on the opposite team, they won’t score a point. Kabbadi is popular in many countries, including India, Pakistan, Japan and Iran, but Bangladesh has embraced kabaddi as its national sport. Pro-leagues and cup competitions, including the Asia Kabaddi Cup and the Kabaddi World Cup, are increasing the sport’s profile around the world.
Giant Pumpkin Kayaking
If you're tired of using a kayak to go kayaking, then why not give this quirky sport a try instead?
The most famous giant pumpkin race by far takes place annually on Nova Scotia's Lake Pesaquid. The race is around half a mile long, and participants typically decorate their pumpkins in a colorful way.
Underwater football is basically American football that's usually played in a swimming pool. Players have to wear snorkeling equipment and are tasked with getting the weighted football to the gutter on the other side of the pool.
This one's almost as self-explanatory as underwater football, since unicycle hockey is pretty much nothing more than hockey on unicycles, as insane and dangerous as that may sound. Each team consists of 5 players who are required to have both feet on their unicycle at all times.
Competitive Worm Charming
Worm charming is a sport in which participants attempt to lure as many earthworms out of the ground as possible within a pre-defined timeframe. There are many kinds of techniques that can be used, however, the most common one is to simply tap the ground rhythmically until the worms begin to emerge.
Logrolling tournaments consist of two participants balancing on a floating log, while trying to push their opponent off, without crossing the centerline or making any physical contact. Participants typically win by repeatedly kicking the log, to make it bounce or change direction.
In this quirky sport, players are strapped into huge inflatable bubbles, which cover their head and upper body. Each team typically consists of five players each, and the game is played with much of the same rules that soccer has. This sport is not only incredibly fun to play, but it's also absolutely hilarious to watch!
Also known as 'radball', this sport is essentially a game of soccer played with bicycles. The catch is that you're not allowed to use any part of your body, and must only touch the ball with your bicycle. The craziest part is that the bicycles used have absolutely no brakes installed!
Here’s a sport most kids could relate to a giant snowball fight. That’s essentially what yukigassen is. It originated in Hokkaido, Japan, and the name literally means “snow battle.” Yukigassen is played between 2 teams, each with 7 players. When a player is hit with a snowball, they’re eliminated from the game. Safety precautions are key; players wear specialized helmets with face shields. Before a match, as many as 90 snowballs are made in advance. When the teams hit the court, the fun begins! Competitions are held in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Canada, Russia and Alaska today, with the World Championship held in Sobetsu, Hokkaido, every year.