This month, I Dig Culture is celebrating Sports, a rather exciting topic to tackle. Here is an opportunity to cover the history, the physicality, the winning, the losing, the traditions, and the power of sports. But, haven’t we seen all of this in previous films and live broadcasts? Remember the Titans, Miracle, ESPN, The Waterboy… Perhaps what is more important is the is opportunity to share some unique sports which exist from opposite sides of the globe. For anyone who is like me and has never really cared for sports of any sort – perhaps this short article will give you a little inspiration, a little kick in the pants to care about a new sport. So, let’s explore two very unique sports that exist on completely opposite ends of the globe, shall we?
The sport, or perhaps the art, of Dog Dancing originated in Canada during the mid-1980’s. From there, the idea of dogs’ freestyling to music with their handlers quickly spread to other countries such as England, the Netherlands, the United States and various others. The dancing participants, human and canine alike, have gained popularity for their talents, tricks, and rhythmic show of companionship. How could I forget to mention the various styles of freestyle dance that the dogs and their handlers get to explore? Some of my favorites include the Salsa, Meringue, and Swing.
Uploads of previous filming induce heart-warming feelings for the goofy and cutesy routines between handler and show dog while also leaving the viewer amazed at the almost telepathic connection between the two stars. This sport not only awards its participants with physical trophies and world recognition via the Internet, but also the feeling of becoming one with your freestylin’ doggie.
To learn more about what it takes to become a world-traveling, freestyle-competing, handling team of two, view this YouTube video of trainer Carolyn Scott and her dog Rookie performing a dance routine to a song from the classic movie ‘Grease’.
If that isn’t enough, there’s also an entire website devoted to dog-dancing routines.
Dating back to the reign of Genghis Kahn and his fellow traveling Mongols, the game of Buzkashi was born in Northern Afghanistan and Eastern Turkey. Today’s current riders of the surrounding communities treat the ‘game’ as a traditional sport with high hopes of someday competing in the Olympics. So, what is it exactly?
In the simplest terms…
a. Men ride the strongest horses they can buy; the more horses a man owns, the better and richer he is.
b. Once on the horse, the men pick up a dead carcass—usually a goat with its head and hooves cut off—from a designated circular area.
c. While holding the carcass in one hand or with it wrapped up in a whip, the man and his horse ride around until they make it around a pole and back into the circle originally containing the carcass.
Two points to remember:
It has been previously asserted that “in Buzkashi, human life counts less than the result” . This is certain. Humans and their horses are battered up and even trampled at times just attempting to retrieve the stone-cold carcass of the headless goat. It is really hard to watch footage of the sport if you are not used to this type of competition.
Today the sport itself is evolving along with the Afghan culture and region itself. Since 9/11, The United States has been pouring hundreds of billions of US dollars into the country Afghanistan but also apparently its national sport of Buzkashi. One analysis from ESPN reflected on the new wealth of current riders who often make big money from their sponsors and through gambling. It was stated by current professional rider, Mohammad Hasan Palwan, that in the past, if you won, it was “for the province. Now, the sponsors have changed the allegiances, the pride. Victory is no longer for your community.” Now the sport is won for power of the individual . It is apparent that today’s riders are playing the game for more than the revival of traditional sport, but for the power and money available to win. Gambling goes anywhere from $20 to $17,000. It is all seemingly aggressive and involves a lot of different high risks.
A short YouTube video which visually aides one into further understanding into the sport of Buzkashi and its dangerous reality is listed below.
It’s apparent that these two ‘sports’ are completely different from one another. Dancing, happy dogs versus life-threatening danger and the high stakes of gambling. In Buzkashi, the rider is putting himself, his horse, other players, and even his family at serious risk. The actual sport involves a dead carcass being carried and dragged across a rugged, dirty surface. The game itself is, safe to say, brutal versus the extremely quirky yet heart-warming groovy sport of Dog-Dancing. In dog-dancing, there are rarely any dead animals that we know of yet, and the dogs seem to be enjoying themselves for the most part. Whereas the horses, being thrown against one another and clunked amongst hard shoes and kicking.
Despite their many differences, these two unique sports can appear similar in a few ways. For instance, both require the acquisition of personal talents and the talent of a live, animal companion to get their ‘routine’ awarded and as a means to win the competition or sport. Both sports require a form of companionship. In dog-dancing, the owner and the live dog must use their companionship to work together to win. In Buzkashi, the riders use connection with their horses to work together. Their companionship has to be on a higher and more spiritual level. How the individual performs with the animal, connects with the animal, takes care of the animal, and uses the animal are all quite similar. In both sports, the riders and the dog owners must learn to accept and deal with both victory and defeat, not just the competition itself. However, those who love sports often love the thrill of a competition and thus world riders, trainers, handlers, et al, are all viewed as competitors in the end. They want to win; they want the cheese, or goat cheese.
So, there you have it. If you’re not into football, soccer, baseball, volleyball, weightlifting, or any ‘mainstream’ sport – you can be a good sport and check out the trying and telepathic sport of dog-dancing or let yourself and horse get rustled and toughened up in a game or two of Buzkashi. Hey, it’s all about learning another’s culture and their interests isn’t it?
I am a recent graduate from Grand Valley State University where I studied Film/Video and Anthropology. My goal is to serve the world with communication of and about other cultures; the many different practices, alternatives to cooking and medicine, and to enlighten those who may have suffered from xenophobia.
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