On Buzkashi… and Journalists.

First of all, another plug for “Buzkashi Boys” in its quest for an Oscar in a week or so.

UK’s “The Guardian” has a very good recent write up about the movie here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/15/buzkashi-boys-oscar-afghan-dreamers

Unfortunately, like most journalists, and newspapers, they are intensely guilty of over-generalizing and misinterpreting details.  I know, I know, they need to churn out something fast, which fits the space requirements of their paper, but still.  In my work, I have similar requirements, but the thing is, my background is not “journalism.”  In fact, unlike most journalists I’ve met, I actually HAVE a background doing, well, you know… work.  

It’s out, then.  I’ve developed a moderate aversion to Journalists.  In my work, I’ve been at the nexus of several events where journalists flocked.  I was in the USSR when Gorbachev came to power; I was on the East-West German Border when the wall came down; I was in the Army when the first Gulf War came about; I was working in Des Moines, Iowa, when the Flood of ’93 hit, (and worked with Wolf Blitzer); I was in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003.  And I saw a bunch of journalists in my time in Afghanistan.  I’ve seen journalists make mistakes, miss key points and downright lie their butts off and make things up. (Jessica Lynch, anyone?)  

In fact, Jessica Lynch is a great example.  I saw military briefing officers give briefings, then watched as journalists made up complete and utter lies off-line, then report those lies as truth.  Because they “sounded better”.  And then when the truth turned out to be EXACTLY what the military briefed, the journalists defended their naked lies by accusing the military of lying to them.  Which the Army could not defend itself against.  A funny detail; the Generals would routinely chew out the briefing officers, because the journalists would have “better” facts, when in reality the journalists’ “facts” were just fabricated to make the story sound better.  

But I digress.  

The linked Buzkashi Boys article is not bad; it just lacks a little bit of detail.  So in the interest of a bit more depth, I’ve decided to blog on the Afghanistani national sport of “Buzkashi”.  



So, Buzkashi, as described in the article DOES involve attempting to wrestle a headless goat, on horseback, from one place to another.  There are at least two significantly different kinds of Buzkashi though.  Those two kinds are called “Tudabarai” and “Qarajai.”



(These diagrams were given to me by an Anthropologist in Kunduz; source unknown)

In Tudabarai, in order to score, the rider must grab the headless goat carcass and then carry it away from the starting circle in any direction. 


In Qarajai, the task is much more complex. The player must carry the calf around a marker, and then return the carcass to the team’s designated scoring circle.

In each version of the game, points are awarded for grabbing the goat as well as for arriving at the “goal”.

The version described in the article, as well as that portrayed in the movie, is Qarajai.  


It’s interesting to note what kind of rig buzkashi horses are wearing.  Here’s a picture of a Buzkashi horse in Faryab.


What’s significant about the above picture, is that I had just finished riding that pony just before I took it.  I describe my experiences there in my blog entry named “A Pony for Christmas” https://hotmilkforbreakfast.wordpress.com/2012/12/22/a-pony-for-christmas/ 



About hotmilkforbreakfast

I am a researcher, a writer, a former soldier, an academic and a lifelong learner. All text and pictures are copyrighted and are not to be used without express permission of the author.
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18 Responses to On Buzkashi… and Journalists.

  1. Ashana M says:

    Thanks for the interesting description. I am particularly fond of goats for reasons that entirely escape me. I don’t know if I could watch a headless goat carcass being dragged from one place to another.

    • I understand. I like goats as well. Fortunately, my ability to disassociate is very good.

      • Ashana M says:

        I’ll have to work on that. It would be a shame if my fondness for goats interfered with my ability to enjoy a good game of Buzkashi.

      • Speaking of goats, my disassociation helps in that I love cooking and eating goat recipes. The goats we eat are locally raised, they are even named, and we play with them. As a farm kid, I was raised to not be squeamish about having pets that eventually became food. I have to admit that my biggest objection to Buzkashi is the waste of perfectly good protein.

  2. Margarita says:

    If it’s a carcass already, why headless? Just curious…

  3. purpleln2 says:

    sometimes you say goat, sometimes calf, can either be used?

    • In the Bible, livestock were universally known as “cattle”. Therefore I do not know. And by the time you see the animal, you cannot really tell.

      • thomasruttigaan says:

        well, ‘buz’ means ‘goat’, not ‘calf’. this doesn’t exclude that they use a dead calf sometimes. i just hope that ‘pull-the-goat’ becomes olympic one day; we need more medals for afghans.

      • Thanks for the additional info. I appreciate it!

        And as for medals for Afghans, I have had the honor of having seen Ruhollah Nikpai on a visit to Dashti Barchi a couple years back.

  4. Todd Frederick says:

    Great article!

  5. Mike Smith says:

    Great post – I had no idea there were variants of buzkashi; is that determined by region or preference, do you know? At any rate – I bet the flesh is tender when it meets the grate.

    • I think it has more to do with the nature of the game. And both teams agree upon which beforehand, like duelling weapons used to be. What I find interesting, is that the Buzkashi field can be as small as a football field, or up to 3 miles by 1 mile in size.

  6. This is outstanding. Just realized I’ve met one of the Buzkashi Boys…Fawad…on Chicken Street. Likely going to do a post on that this weekend pre-Oscars. More than likely will be pulling from this, too. Finally have your blog in the Google Reader. Can’t for the life of me figure out why it took me this long. I’ve given up on checking this WordPress Reader thing. Always enjoy your work.

  7. Pingback: Peretz Partensky, Buzkashi | Le carabinier o el botín de los carabineros

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