When it comes to animals involved in sports, you’re probably familiar with horse racing, polo and the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. You may even be aware of more controversial activities like bull fighting and cockfighting. However, there are plenty of other shocking — and just plain weird — games that require animal athletes. Here’s a look at 14 bizarre sports that involve everything from crickets in your mouth to ferrets in your pants.
When it comes to animals involved in sports, you’re probably familiar with horse racing, polo and the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. You may even be aware of more controversial activities like bull fighting and cockfighting. However, there are plenty of other shocking — and just plain weird — games that require animal athletes. Here’s a look at 14 bizarre sports that involve everything from crickets in your mouth to ferrets in your pants. (Text: Laura Moss)
Ferret legging is essentially a contest to see who can keep a ferret in his pants the longest. The sport became popular with coal miners in Yorkshire, England, during the 1970s, and today it’s often seen at Celtic festivals. How do you play? The male-only contestants tie their pants at the ankles before placing a ferret inside and fastening their belts. Participants are not allowed to wear underwear, and the ferrets must have a full set of teeth. The winner is quite simply whoever lasts longest.
Ferrets are natural tunnelers that enjoy confined spaces, and advocates of this bizarre sport say that it’s much more likely the competitor will be injured during the game than the ferret. However, one has to wonder if the ferret truly emerges emotionally unscathed after spending hours in the pants of a man who’s going commando.
Although camels do fight in the wild, the sport of camel wrestling is often initiated by leading a female camel in heat before two males or by starving camels to make them more aggressive. Camels fight by using their necks as leverage to force their opponent to the ground, and a camel is declared a winner if his competitor falls down or flees. This sport is most commonly practiced in Turkey, but wrestling matches also take place in other parts of the Middle East and South Asia. Due to its violent nature, camel fighting is an extremely controversial sport.
These little piggies really bring home the bacon. These “sport pigs,” as they’re called, run races, paddle across small pools and even split into teams to chase soccer balls covered in fish oil — all in hopes of winning a gold medal at Russia’s annual Pig Olympics. And these porky athletes never become Sunday dinner, according to the Sport-Pig Federation — they simply go on to produce a new generation of athletic sport pigs.
Cricket spitting is exactly what it sounds like. Each contestant places a (usually dead) cricket in his mouth and spits it as far as he can. The contestant who spits a cricket the farthest is declared the winner. Entomologist Tim Turpin invented this mouth-watering activity for Purdue University’s annual Bug Bowl. Since then, the sport has been featured at other schools, festivals and events.
In this sport, trained racing pigeons are released from a distance of about 100 to 1,000 kilometers, measuring the time it takes for the birds to return home. Often, only a few seconds separate the winners from the losers — and the prize money. Pigeon fanciers train their athletes to brave predators, storms and other threats, and the birds’ times are clocked by computer chips attached to ankle rings. There are several theories on how these birds home in on their destinations — they appear to navigate by the sun and may also have a natural compass that allows them to use magnetic north to find their home.
Idi probak is Basque for “oxen tests” and is popular in parts of Spain and France. Two oxen drag a large rectangular rock weighing almost a ton from one side of a square to another. The goal of the competition is to complete as many laps as possible in a set amount of time. Modern competitions typically allow the oxen and their herders 30 minutes to complete their run, but competitions have been known to last up to two riveting hours.
Rabbit show jumping
In rabbit show jumping — quite possibly the cutest sport ever invented — trained rabbits leap over obstacles of varying heights and lengths. The sport began in the 1970s in Sweden, and today Scandinavia has more than 50 rabbit show jumping clubs. The activity has caught on in the U.K. and America, but there are few international competitions because the rules differ from country to country.
This sport is a variant of polo that’s played while riding elephants. Two people ride on each animal: The mahout, or elephant driver, steers the animal and the player tells the mahout where to go and hits the ball. The game is popular in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Ready, set, slow! Snail racing involves racing two or more land snails, typically on a circular track with a radius of 13-14 inches. Racing numbers are either painted on the snails’ shells or small stickers are attached to them to distinguish each competitor. Many snail-racing events take place worldwide each year, but the annual World Snail Racing Championships in the U.K. is the most popular.
Insect fighting is a popular activity in many Asian countries, and the practice actually dates back to China’s Tang Dynasty. A variety of insects are used in the fights, but some of the most popular are the stag beetle, rhinoceros beetle, praying mantis, grasshopper and goliath beetle — mostly because their size and jumping ability make them the most formidable opponents. Some bug owners even train their insects to become stronger and more aggressive by feeding them sugarcane and using female mating calls to excite them.
This game — a popular annual event in some communities — involves using a frozen turkey in place of a bowling ball to knock down bowling pins. The game is usually played on ice rinks and has become fairly common at minor league hockey games in the U.S. and Canada. The frozen birds used in turkey bowling are typically discarded store turkeys not intended for consumption.
Cows naturally fight to determine dominance in the herd, and this popular Swiss sport exploits this behavior. Each year, cows in Switzerland compete for the title of La Reine des Reines, which means “the queen of queens,” in an event that draws about 50,000 spectators. The cows fight by shoving against one another head-to-head with blunted horns so each “fight” is essentially a pushing contest.
Like horse racing, camel racing is a spectator sport and a popular event for sports betting. The races are extremely popular in India, the Middle East, North Africa and Australia, and several countries hold annual championship racing events. While the camels were once controlled by child jockeys, bans on underage labor and concerns about the child slave trade have caused many countries to begin using robotic jockeys. Both Qatar and the UAE have banned the use of human jockeys in favor of robots.
Snow polo is a modified version of polo played on a snow-packed arena. The horses are shod with cleated shoes to provide better traction, and the ball is typically larger and bright red to accommodate the snowy conditions.