The spectacular equestrian sport of "Uloq-kopkari" is a tradition all over Central Asian. Also known as “kupkari” or “uloq” are equally close to all the Turkic speaking nations of the region ; Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, Kyrgyz, and Turkmen. Also popular with Tajik and Dari speakers of Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan where it is known as buzkashi. The word “kupkari” in Uzbek literally means the “business of many people”The object of kopkari is for
a single horseman to grab
the "ulog" (usually the carcass
of a goat or sheep filled with
salt) while riding a horse at full
gallop and then get it clear of
the other players and pitch it
across a goal line or into a
target circle or vat.
To start the kopkari competition the referee throws the "ulog" into the middle of the pitch.
It can weigh up to 40 kilos and all the opponent horsemen will do all they can to capture the "ulog" and try and score themselves. The common tactic is for the horseman to pick up the "ulog" (carcass) and press it using his leg to his saddle. He then tries to race through his rivals on the pitch without them stealing it away and take it to the appointed spot.
Huge clutters of horsemen fighting to grab the "ulog" can occur during the game. Sometimes it is very hard to tell what is going on in all the clutter. As a rule the bearer of the "ulog" is surrounded by his fellow team members to protect and assist him from the opposition competitors until he carries the "ulog", clear the way from the clutter and races to the finish line.
Competitors have to be very tough, since it is very hard to tell what is going on in the clutter, occasional punches in the arm or slash from whips are used to assist in grabbing (stealing the "ulog" from an opponent). Generally only the most nimble dzhigit (skilled horseman) using a strong and swift-footed horse who has good allies has a chance of scoring. Kopkari Horsemen have handed down the secrets of correct feeding and training of their horses across the generations.
The season for kopkari usually starts in spring usually tied to the Navrus holiday or other popular local festivals such as the end of the harvest or weddings. Months or weeks before "ulog" game callers go around in crowded places or bazars of the villages in the region and announce the competition holder, the day, the place, the reason, and the prizes for the "Uloq" competition. Horsemen generally compete in groups and divide the prize among each other. In Karakalpakstan the prizes typically are a carpet, a traditional overcoat and some amount of money.
Sources: novotours.uz/kopkari_game.html and Uzbekistan today http://old.ut.uz/eng/tourism_and_travel/spanish_fervors_in_uloq_game.mgr
Photos: Source http://www.monkboughtlunch.com/uzbek-kokpari-buzkashi/