Why Kazakhstan Wants to Use a Fake Headless Goat in Its National Sport

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Buzkashi normally uses a dead animal in every match, but local animal rights activists want a humane alternative.

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Afghan horsemen tussle for control of a goat carcass during a buzkashi match. AP

The days of Kazakhstan's national sport kokpar being a wild free-for-all with a headless goat may be numbered since plans have surfaced to replace the bloody carcass at the center of the game with a plastic dummy.

The move comes at the instigation of Kazakhstan-based animal-rights group KARE-Zabota (Kazakhstan Animal Rescue and Education), acting on complaints from animal-lovers who object to the killing of goats for the sport, a local take on buzkashi.

KARE-Zabota says it received a letter from Kazakhstan's Agency for Sports and Physical Training Affairs agreeing to introduce dummy goats.

Already, the Agency has carried out tests on models from Pakistan and a locally produced imitation goat from Taras, but, lacking flexibility, these were deemed unfit for play. Hopes are now being pinned on an artificial carcass from Shymkent, with testing scheduled for later this year.

Kokpar is a macho sport where two teams of horsemen grapple over a decapitated goat, which they try to deposit in the opponent's goal. The fierce struggle is a test of strength for both riders and horses. It's unclear how this affront to tradition will be received.   

But all sports move on. Football (the game known as soccer in the US) was originally a tussle between villagers in 12th-century England over a pig's bladder before it developed into the relatively tame sport we know today. Could kokpar - which is rumored to have already given the world polo - evolve into a worldwide phenomenon by adopting fake, bloodless goats?

This article originally appeared at EurasiaNet.org, an Atlantic partner site.

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