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New Kokpar Proposal Gets Players' Goat

Kokpar has been played in the Asian steppes for millennia.
Kokpar has been played in the Asian steppes for millennia.
The art of throwing dead goats while on horseback has a long and venerable history in Central and South Asia.

"Kokpar," as the sport is known in Kazakhstan, is sort of like rugby except the players are on horseback and the ball is the headless carcass of a goat or calf.

It has been played in the Asian steppes for millennia and is thought to have been the precursor to polo, which is played all over the world.

Now, however, this ancient game could be changed radically if a new proposal by Kazakhstan's Agency for Sports and Physical Training gets the green light.

Prompted by animal-rights activists who are not happy with the killing of goats for the sport, the agency says it plans to introduce dummy versions of the animals.

Eurasianet has reported that tests have already been carried out on models made in Pakistan and a locally produced imitation goat, but these "lacked the flexibility" needed to play what is a notoriously rough-and-tumble sport.

Tests on a new model are scheduled for later this year but already there is talk that the change might not go down well with the game's fiercely traditional players.

Nonetheless, the advantages of a manmade carcass might eventually win many of them over.

Besides pleasing animal lovers, kokpar enthusiasts may appreciate the convenience of a fake goat.

At present, carcasses have to be soaked in cold water for 24 hours before a contest in order to toughen them up and even then they often disintegrate in the course of a game.

With durable plastic dummies, such tiresome irritations could be a thing of the past.

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