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Sports Authority

Adams: Ranking the top-five obscure sports

| Monday, September 2, 2019

“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”

Those are the immortal words of Patches O’Houlihan, seven-time American Dodgeball Association of America (ADAA) All-Star, played by the late Rip Torn in the movie “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” Despite the number of fantastic sports quotes, virtually all pale in comparison to the visceral emotions kindled by O’Houlihan’s utterance.

Not only did this movie show its viewers what it means to have the heart of a champion, but it also introduced many to the world of obscure sports. “Dodgeball’s” cultural significance is evidenced by ESPN periodically devoting a channel to obscure professional sports such as cornhole, arm wrestling and slippery stairs.

With this in mind, I decided to rank the top-five strangest sports I could find. Without further ado, prepare to get weird.

  1. Chess Boxing

You’ll quickly find that many of these sports seem excessively cruel. The mental and physical torture exhibited by chess boxing is no exception. An admittedly straightforward sport, the contest consists of 11 rounds alternating between playing chess and boxing, with the game being ended by knockout, checkmate or judge’s decision.

Inspired by a French comic book artist and invented by a Dutch performance artist, chess boxing had its first official match in 2003 in Britain. The sport really took off in 2008 when the International Chess Federation recognized it. In 2009 chess boxing clubs were founded in Los Angeles and New York, and in 2015 Terry Marsh was the first professional boxer to compete in chess boxing. Perhaps the strangest trait of chess boxing is that the sport has grown in India among poor women looking to escape poverty.

  1. Shin-kicking

Yet another absurd sport, shin-kicking originated in England in the 17th century. Similar to chess boxing, shin-kicking is very self-explanatory: two competitors face each other, grab one another by the collar and attempt to beat the other into submission by repeatedly kicking their shins.

Modern matches require competitors to wear soft shoes and stuff straw into their pants for padding. A referee watches the matches with a loser being declared when one competitor yells “sufficient,” similar to saying “uncle” in American culture. Wins in two out of three matches are required.

  1. Camel Wrestling

This is only the first of many animal-centric obscure sports, dating back over 2,400 years. Popular in the Aegean region of Turkey as well as other regions of the Middle East and South Asia, camel wrestling involves baiting two male camels into a wrestling match by parading a female camel by them. Due to the natural tendency of male camels to compete for mates in the wild, events usually take place during mating season.

The camels attempt to force their opponent to the ground or to flee, at which point the remaining camel is declared the winner. While understandably criticized by animal rights groups, camel wrestling is a staple of the tourism industry in many regions, and a prized camel could be sold for as much as $20,000.

  1. Ferret-legging

This may be the most downright cruel of all obscure sports. Contestants must tie their pants around their ankles and place two ferrets in their pants before securely tightening their belt and standing in front of judges for as long as possible. Competitors cannot be drunk or otherwise sedated and, adding injury to injury, they cannot wear undergarments of any kind and the ferrets must have a full set of teeth.

Though existing for centuries and with disputed origins, ferret-legging gained popularity in 1970s among coal miners in Yorkshire, England. In 1981, retired miner Reg Mellor set the world record at five hours and twenty-six minutes, having gained experience by keeping ferrets in his pants for warmth while using them to hunt. His record was broken in 2010.

  1. Buzkashi

The national sport of Afghanistan, buzkashi, translated to “goat-pulling” in Persian, has got to be the craziest sport on record, both for its premise and popularity. It requires riders mounted on horses to drag a goat or calf carcass to a goal. The carcass is typically beheaded and may be soaked in cold water for 24 hours to avoid disintegration. Beginning in the 10th century among Turkic peoples, buzkashi is prominent throughout the middle east and has even spawned American variants.

Players wear protective clothing and headgear to combat opponents’ whips. A competitor, known as a Chapandaz, may be sponsored by someone wealthy who often provides a horse in pursuit of honor and pride. The best competitors are typically in their forties, as the game requires extensive physical training.


There is no end to the outrageous sports people manage to come up with. One of these days the Olympics will institute Quidditch as an official sport. However, no matter what game you’re playing, you’re set as long as you remember the five D’s of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden