Football, basketball, hockey, soccer… there are a handful of sports that nearly everybody has heard of, whether or not they care to play or watch them. While non-fans may not know all the positions or rules to the sports, it’s nearly impossible to get through life without having some type of encounter with the most common sports. For example, even if you don’t know the difference between a running back and a corner back, you’ve probably heard of the NFL.
If the well known sports seem too boring, however, fear not – there are many sports that most people likely have never heard of which have some quite unusual twists. In some cases location plays a role – many of these relatively unknown sports are fairly popular in one country or region of the world. In some cases, the sport’s popularity begins to spread and they become more known on a worldwide scale, while in some cases the sport remains a primarily local activity. Regardless, the sports on this list are definitely a bit stranger than the typical team sports we all know and love.
Swapping out the choice of animal, taking a common sport and playing it underwater, incorporating food, mashing together two sports… however the inventors of these sports came up with the ideas, they deserve points for their innovation. Here is a list of ten sports you have likely never heard of.
Dogspotting – must be some quaint name that is completely unrelated to the sport it actually describes, right? Nope – dogspotting is literally exactly what it sounds like – a sport that involves spotting (seeing – don’t go around painting polka dots on unsuspecting puppies) a dog and recording the event in a dogspotting group. Points are either given or taken away based on a variety of factors, such as if the dog sees you, how well you describe it, etc. Some dogspotters have gotten so serious about the points system that a divide has emerged in the sport between those who think points should be given fairly arbitrarily (the Free Point System) and those who think points should only be awarded based on set guidelines (the Boruffian Orthodox). This is a sport that should only be played by athletes who have in some way injured themselves and are unable to participate in a real sport for awhile, because let's face it - the only muscle being exercised is your eyes, and isn't that a little sad.
Have you ever wished to combine your love of jogging with your equally passionate love of juggling? Well, thanks to joggling, look no further – there is a sport that exists for you. Joggling, a mash-up of jogging and juggling, is exactly how it sounds. Jogglers must jog while simultaneously juggling objects in a juggling pattern. If they drop a juggled object (which they’re bound to), they merely return to where they dropped it and try to run faster to make up time. It’s also a lot more official than you might think – a Joggling World Championship has been held annually since 1980 with races of varying lengths, from 100 meters to 5 kilometers.
8 Underwater Hockey/Octopush
If you’re a huge hockey fan but have never quite been able to master skating, have no fear – if you just strengthen your swimming skills you could be a star at underwater hockey, also called octopush in the UK. It was started in England in 1954 and has spread to many nations since then. Underwater hockey players suit up in swimsuits, diving masks, snorkels, fins, water polo caps, and gloves on their playing hand. That’s right – getting all your gear on for underwater hockey will likely take just as long as putting on endless pads for ice hockey. While underwater hockey players do get a stick, it’s a very short one that can be held in one hand. Like ice hockey, there is a puck – however, unlike ice hockey, underwater hockey players are not allowed to body check. Championships have been held every two years since 1980, and at the most recently (in 2013 in Hungary) there were 68 teams from 19 countries in attendance.
7 Cheese Rolling
A bunch of tipsy individuals stumbling down a steep hill after a roll of cheese may sound like a very weird ending to a night out, but believe it or not it’s a real sport. Though it’s since spread a bit, with events in countries such as Canada, the sport originated near Gloucester in England. Once every year, participants flock to the intimidatingly steep Cooper’s Hill and chase eight pound wheels of cheese down the hill. In order to view racing down a steep hill as a good idea, many participants have a drink or two prior to the event – this likely softens the impact at the bottom as well, as if runners are somehow still on their feet at the bottom of the hill, rugby players promptly tackle them lest they crash into a fence. The sport isn’t for the faint of heart, as countless injuries eventually led to safety measures being put in place in the late 1990s.
6 Chess Boxing
The sport that truly combines brains with brawn – chess boxing. This geeky sport, invented fairly recently in 2002, was inspired by Enki Bilal’s comic Cold Equator. As the sport’s name suggests, participants switch between boxing matches and chess matches – to be specific, four-minute rounds of chess and three minute rounds of boxing, with a minute to rest in between. Players can go on for as many as eleven total rounds (six chess, five boxing).
5 Elephant Polo
If regular polo seems a bit too old fashioned and predictable for you, you’ll be happy to hear you can swap the horse for an elephant and participate in the unusual sport of elephant polo. The sport was developed in the early 1980s and official rules were set by the World Elephant Polo Association in 1982. Predominantly Nepalese and Thai athletes come to the yearly World Elephant Polo Tournament in Megauly. Despite the unique choice of elements, the game itself is fairly similar to regular polo: there are four players (and, naturally, four elephants) per team, a regular polo ball is used, and both elephants and sides are changed halfway. There are a few rules that take the lively creatures into consideration, such as that elephants cannot pick up the ball in their trunk during active play. Elephants can be any size or gender, and for their hard work they are rewarded with sugar cane/rice balls containing vitamins.
4 Caber Tossing
If you’re in Scotland, and also have the ability to lift enormous amounts of weight, you could partake in the Scottish sport of caber tossing. What’s a caber? Essentially, a big wooden pole, generally at least 150 pounds in weight. While 150 lbs may not seem like a lot to gym rats, the caber is also awkwardly sized at approximately eighteen feet long and nine inches thick. And points off if you just lift it up and toss it wherever – the aim isn’t to throw it far, but rather to throw it so that it makes a full turn and lands with the bottom pointing straight at the participant. Not exactly an easy feat.
3 Sepak Takraw
Sepak Takraw is a popular sport in Southeast Asian countries that goes by several names – ‘takraw’ in Thailand, ‘sepak raga’ in Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei, ‘sipa’ in the Philippines, ‘da cau’ in Vietnam, ‘rago’ in Indonesia, etc. It has developed and evolved over the years, and representatives from several of the countries where the sport was popular met in 1960 to create some standard rules and regulations for the sport, officially named sepak takraw. The first international competition was held in 1965 and as the ball was switched from the original rattan ball to a plastic one, the sport became increasingly popular. So how do you play? Well, it’s very similar to volleyball, with one exception – no hands or arms allowed, the primary differentiating factor that distinguishes it from volleyball. Players can use any part of their body (except hands or arms) to get the ball over the net and sets are won based on which team reaches a certain amount of points first. If you dream of being a star volleyball player but find your hand-eye coordination isn’t that great, perhaps sepak takraw is the sport for you.
Most popular in India, kabaddi is a team sport that doesn’t require much in the way of equipment or space. It is also popular in countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. Two teams of twelve players participate in a game of kabaddi, which has two twenty minute halves and a relatively small playing area of about 12 by 10 metres split into halves. One team sends out a raider, who chants ‘kabaddi-kabaddi’ while attempting to touch as many players on the opposing team as they can within one breath. The opposing team, while the raider is doing this, attempts to ensure that the raider runs out of breath before returning to his team’s court – generally, by tackling him. A mix of chanting, tag, and straight up tackling makes it a very interesting sport.
1 Wife Carrying
In Finland, if a husband tosses his wife over his shoulder, it’s not a caveman-esque gesture – he’s likely prepping for the sport of wife carrying. In this strange sport, teams consist of a man and a woman (often a married couple, but that isn’t a requirement). As the name implies, the man carries his wife in whatever method suits him best, from piggy back to fireman’s carry to the boggling Estonian carry, where the woman hangs upside down with her legs over the man’s shoulders. The man carries the woman across a type of obstacle course and the lucky winner snags his wife’s weight in beer. Fun for the whole family.