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Uloq in Uzbekistan 02
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Despite the fact that Uloq should traditionally be played in spring or autumn, horsemen like to play on fresh snow - it's safer when you fall from a horse.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 03
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

A big round target marks the finish line where the winning rider is supposed to lay the carcass - without getting it stolen from him by other riders with whips clenched in their teeth and horses trained to bite.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 04
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

The jury consists of respected people (aksakals) who inspect horsemen, the carcass and monitor the game to make sure it goes on according to the rules.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 05
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

The jury will grant the winner a prize: it can be anything from a horse or carpet to a TV or even a car.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 06
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Spectators enjoy alcoholic beverages while braving the cold to watch the game. Their drinks of choice: vodka and cheap local wine called "Porto 53."

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 08
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Riders who become too tired to carry on or who are injured can leave the game at any time.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 09
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

The hoard of riders waits for a signal from the jury that marks the beginning of the game.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 10
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Uloq fans are often criticized for drinking and bad behavior.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 11
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Fans wait in line to enter the massive field where the game will take place in Ertosh.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 12
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

While men ride horses into the game, children and young boys ride donkeys.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 13
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Riders try to wear warm clothes made of thick layers of cotton to prevent injuries from horses and other riders.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 14
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

A carcass used for the game should first be beheaded. A regulation carcass weighs between 30 and 40 kg.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 17
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

A game of Uloq has just begun before a packed audience in Ertosh, Uzbekistan.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 16
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Spectators try to find elevated places to have a good view on the game.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 18
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Riders are allowed to whip each other. They often hold their whips in their mouths while trying to control their horses with both hands.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 15
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Riders are not allowed to attack each other from the back, but all other kinds of physical attack are permitted.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 19
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Bizarrely and painfully, it is allowed for horses to bite riders and other horses. Riders often train their horses to perform such a trick on command.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 21
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

Riders customarily pray before the start of the game.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 20
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

One lucky rider (left) wears a Soviet tank brigadier helmet to the game. It's considered the best defense for a horseman's head.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 22
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

The winner (right) will ride back to the jury with the carcass once he has planted it in the target.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 23
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

The winner of the game of Uloq rides back towards the jury and spectators with his spoils.

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 24
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
10 Mar 2015

A lone Uloq rider wanders with his horse in the field of battle at the end of the game.

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Uloq: Uzbekistan's Ancient Extreme Sport
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
28 Jan 2015

Photos by Umida Akhmedova

Uloq is the Uzbek version of the famous Asian Buzkashi game. This tradition was spread in Central Asia and Afghanistan by Mongols with their cult of horsemen. The rules are simple: riders compete for a carcass of a goat or a young ram. The winner has to cross the finish line on horseback without allowing other riders to rob him of his prey. Like Buzkashi, Uloq is an extremely dangerous sport: 100 or more horsemen usually fight for a one carcass. Major Uloq games are usually held in the spring or autumn, when the Central Asian peoples traditionally celebrate their weddings, and is often played before the arrival of their main Spring festival, Nowruz. The official Uloq Federation of Uzbekistan conducts frequent tournements and competitions, bringing together up to 500 riders and thousands of spectators to watch the fast, intense sport.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

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Uloq in Uzbekistan 01
Ertosh, Uzbekistan
By TTM Contributor 100
28 Jan 2015

Riders from all the surrounding villages take part in an Uloq competition in Ertosh. Participating in Uloq competitions is considered a good way to demonstrate mens' strength to women.

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Centaurs of the Steppe
Dushanbe,Tajikistan
By tkaye
27 Nov 2011

An intimate, cultural study of the free-for-all melee of 'Buzkashi', Central Asia's oldest and fiercest sport. The name of the game literally translates as "goat grabbing." Contestants vie to snatch the headless carcass of a goat (buz) and drag it across a goal line.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 14
Hissor
By tkaye
27 Nov 2011

A member of the audience runs for cover as buzkashi riders gallop past the goal markers in Luchob, central Tajikistan.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 16
Hissor
By tkaye
30 May 2011

Sunlight and dust streams around Buzkashi players in Sharinav, Tajikistan. Spectators stand on a mound nearby - audience members often wander as close as possible to watch the game.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 17
Hissor
By tkaye
30 May 2011

Sunlight and dust streams around Buzkashi players in Sharinav, Tajikistan. Spectators stand on a mound nearby - audience members often wander as close as possible to watch the game.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 13
Hissor
By tkaye
22 Mar 2011

At a Navruz commemorative match in the mountains near Dushanbe.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 12
Hissor
By tkaye
08 Mar 2011

A farmer holds the head of a goat he just sold for extended rounds of a buzkashi game in Sharinav, Tajikistan. The goat carcass is normally prepared the day before the match.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 10
Hissor
By tkaye
27 Feb 2011

A player puts on his boots before a match near Dushanbe.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 11
Hissor
By tkaye
27 Feb 2011

A buzkashi player tries to escape from a rival at a match in Tezgar, near Dushanbe.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 09
Hissor
By tkaye
27 Feb 2011

An assistant buzkashi player in training at a match in Tezgar, near Dushanbe. As Tajikistan modernizes and young people increasingly move to Russia and elsewhere to work due to the lack of jobs in-country, the future of buzkashi is unclear.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 15
Hissor
By tkaye
20 Feb 2011

Young spectators view a horde of buzkashi horses from a nearby hill in Dangara, southern Tajikistan.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 03
Hissor
By tkaye
06 Feb 2011

A buzkashi player tapes up his fingers to ward off cold and blows from other players' whips during a winter match near Hissor, western Tajikistan.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 04
Hissor
By tkaye
06 Feb 2011

A new goat is handed off during a match in Jirganak, western Tajikistan, after the earlier goat is too destroyed to continue with.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 05
Hissor
By tkaye
06 Feb 2011

Spectators rally around a snowy buzkashi field. The truck in the foreground is both the prize truck, the announcer's truck and the holding pen for goats (buz) for the game.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 06
Hissor
By tkaye
06 Feb 2011

Assistants to master buzkashi players exercise their horses in the fog near Jirganak, western Tajikistan.

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Centaurs of the Steppe 07
Hissor
By tkaye
06 Feb 2011

A buzkashi rider wearing a USSR jersey takes a break during a foggy match.