We’re all familiar with football, baseball, basketball, hockey. But what are the world’s strangest sports? From tongue-in-cheek parody games to legitimate sports that just aren’t as well known, here are the weirdest ways athletes around the world showcase their prowess. Play ball!
40. Lumberjack World Championships
Calling all lumberjacks. This unique competition is held annually in Hayward Wisconsin. There are 21 events, including log rolling, chopping, and pole climbing. It may be one of the world’s strangest sports, but the stakes are very real. Total prizes amount to more than $50,000.
You’ve heard of dog shows, you’ve heard of horse shows. However, you’ve probably never heard of rabbit shows. That’s what kaninhoppning is. It began in Sweden in the 1970s, but has since gained popularity worldwide.
By the way, if you’re wondering what the record rabbit jump is… 42 inches.
Hobbyhorsing is Finland’s latest sports craze. Thousands of people — many of them young women — show up to various venues with stick horses. They then “race” their horses around circuits, just like genuine equestrians. Except, of course, it’s the people doing the running.
One of the world’s strangest sports, perhaps, but good wholesome fun.
37. Cardboard Tube Fighting League
What kid didn’t fight with cardboard tubes as swords back in the day? Now the Cardboard Tube Fighting League has extended that fun into adulthood. The league organizes “battles” in California and Australia. The goal is to break your opponent’s cardboard sword without breaking your own.
The league’s professed goal is to remind people not to take themselves too seriously. Sounds like a worthy objective to us!
36. Redneck Games
Although they no longer take place, the Redneck Games will forever hold a place in our hearts. With events like bobbing for pigs’ feet, the toilet seat toss, and mud belly flops, the Games were good old fashioned fun.
They were first created in 1996 for satirical reasons. When Atlanta was chosen to host the Olympics, some outsiders said the hosts were ‘rednecks.’ The response from the people of Georgia was to create the Redneck Games to mock those who mocked them.
R.I.P. to one of the strangest sports events ever, and one of the funniest.
35. Extreme Ironing
Is there any household task more boring than ironing? Think again!
Extreme ironing is really simple: take your ironing board to a dangerous or extreme location… and iron away. People have done extreme ironing all over the place. On cliffs. While skiing. Underwater. Even while skydiving.
As the organizers put it, the sport “combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”
34. Kaiju Big Battel
Kaiju Big Battel is a version of wrestling that has been taking place in New York since 1995. It’s a combination of the WWE and Japanese monster movies. Basically, people dressed as city-destroying monsters fight each other in the right for the amusement of onlookers.
33. Calcio Storico
Imagine soccer, only played shirtless in a sand pit and with full-blown fighting. That’s what calcio storico is. It’s an early version of soccer that originated in Florence in the 16th century. But its history may go back further. Some believe it’s a reworked version of the Ancient Roman sport of harpastum.
Not only one of the strangest sports, but one of the oldest too.
32. Giant Pumpkin Regatta
The annual pumpkin regatta is held in Windsor, Nova Scotia. It’s a half-mile kayak race, but there’s a catch. Instead of kayaks, the competitors use hollowed out giant pumpkins.
The all-time champ is Leo Swinamer, a septuagenarian who won 6 of the first 10 races.
The word ‘Buzkashi’ literally means ‘goat pulling.’ In fact, that’s exactly what this sport is. Basically, a bunch of horse riders fight over the body of a dead goat. In some versions, the objective is simply to seize the goat and break away from the pack. In other versions, the goal is to take the goat into the other team’s endzone.
The sport dates back centuries, and remains popular in Afghanistan.
We may be muggles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in Quidditch. The popular sport from the Harry Potter franchise has inspired a real-life sport that’s played on the ground, without broomsticks. Unlike some of the other strangest sports, this one has attracted a real following. Even some major colleges — such as UC Berkeley — have started Quidditch programs.
29. Chess Boxing
It’s exactly what it sounds like. One round of chess. One round of boxing. Then back to the chessboard. To win, you either need to knock your opponent out or checkmate him. It’s an interesting fusion of brain and brawn.
28. Tuna Tossing
Tuna tossing began in the Australian fishing town of Port Lincoln way back in 1979. It’s exactly what it sounds like: toss a tuna as far as you can. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The best technique is to spin several times before releasing the fish, much like hammer throwing. Indeed, the tuna tossing record is held by Olympic hammer thrower Sean Carlin. His record? 122 feet.
Here’s another one that’s real simple. Shin-kicking is a combat sport that involves kicking your opponents (guess where) until they fall to the ground. If it sounds like some kind of joke to you, think again. This sport has been popular in the UK since the 17th century. Some have even gone so far as to call it “an English martial art.”
26. Toe Wrestling
Here’s another UK original. Toe wrestling was invented by a group of barflies in the 1970s. They were upset that the UK didn’t produce many wrestling champions. As a result, they decided to invent a new style of wrestling that no one else would know about. Therefore, they would be the champs by default!
Although toe wrestling is undoubtedly one of the world’s strangest sports, it has proven popular. It’s sort of like playing thumb war. Opponents press their feet together, and try to ‘pin’ their opponents toes for 3 seconds to claim victory.
25. Lawn Mower Racing
The UK may just be the world capital of strange sports. In 1968, the first lawn mower race was held there. It’s a charming cross between go-karting, Formula One, and gardening. Since the ’60s, the sport has spread to the United States as well — particularly North Carolina, New Mexico, and Missouri.
24. Wife Carrying
Marriage is all about carrying each other, isn’t it? In this, literally. This one originated in Finland. The objective is to carry your wife across an obstacle course as quickly as possible. Some tracks even include water obstacles. How you carry your wife is your business.
23. Armored Combat League
This is not LARPing. The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) organizes heavy combat trials that are designed to mimic the realities of Medieval melee fighting. Some of these battles are one-on-one; some are group fights consisting of as many as 2,000 people.
Not to worry: the combatants wear heavy armor and their weapons are made of rattan rather than steel.
22. Bog Snorkeling
It may be one of the strangest sports, but bog snorkeling still sounds like more fun than the Polar Bear dip.
Originating in Wales, bog snorkeling challenges swimmers to swim 120 yards through a peat bog. There are a couple of catches, however. Firstly, swimmers must wear a snorkel and fins. Secondly, no conventional swimming strokes allowed.
Kabaddi is like tag, only much harder. The sport originated in India and is played between two teams of 7 players each. One player is ‘it’; their objective is to break into the opposing zone, tag out the other team, and escape without being tackled.
No one knows exactly where or when the sport originated. It may first have been played in the 7th century BC! Isn’t it amazing to think there were people playing tag 2,700 years ago? Strange sports certainly unify humanity, not only across space but time as well.
20. Underwater Football
Underwater was invented by scuba-diving teacher Dave Murdoch back in the 1960s. It has evolved from being a game of keep-away to being a full-fledged game of football played while wearing scuba equipment.
19. Sepak Takraw
Sepak Takraw might be the coolest of our strangest sports on this list. It’s also known as kick volleyball. Unlike volleyball, you can’t use your hands to play the ball. Feet, knees, chests, and heads only. Sepak Takraw is enduringly popular in Southeast Asia. It’s definitely invites impressive feats of athleticism.
18. Unicycle Hockey
Unicycle hockey is exactly like regular old ball hockey. Oh, except there’s one catch. You have to be on a unicycle. It may look silly, but if you’ve ever tried to ride a unicycle or play hockey, you’ll understand this is one of the tougher ‘strangest sports’ on the list.
Here’s the bounciest of our strangest sports.
Bossaball is a lot like volleyball, only it’s played on a giant trampoline. It was invented in Spain in 2005, but has quickly spread around the world. It’s popular in South America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. And frankly, we can see why: who doesn’t love trampoline sports?
16. Competitive Worm Charming
You know snake charming? Yeah, this is like this, except… no, it isn’t.
Worm charming is the art of seducing worms out of the ground. In the old days, this was a way of acquiring fish bait. These days, it’s a lost skill, and the subject of one of the world’s strangest sports.
Competitors tap on the ground in an attempt to collect more worms than their rivals.
15. Competitive Rock Paper Scissors
We all played this one as kids. But some people never stopped. There is, in fact, a small but devoted community of competitive rock-paper-scissors player. You laugh, but the prizes can get as lucrative as $50,000. Wanna play?
14. Bubble Soccer
I’ve actually tried this one. It’s exactly like soccer, except all the players are wearing giant bubbles. This makes it hard to see, hear, communicate, and remain on your feet. The objective of the game is nominally to score goals. However, it usually devolves into trying to knock over as many other players as possible. Even if they’re on your team.
13. Cheese Chasing
The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is a tradition in Gloucester, England. A wheel of cheese is rolled down a hill, and locals chase after it. The winner gets to keep the cheese. The losers… usually end up bruised and battered. Who can blame them? It’s a steep hill.
12. Punkin Chunkin
It’s also known as ‘Pumpkin Chucking’, which maybe gives a bit more context. The idea is to see who can toss a pumpkin the farthest by mechanical means. Competitors build catapults and trebuchets, taking ‘smashing pumpkins’ to a whole new level.
The record was set in 2013 by a team called American Chunker Inc: 4,694 feet.
Fierljeppen is pole vaulting for people who want to die. The sport originated in the Netherlands in the 18th century. Athletes use a pole as long as 43 feet. They take a running jump, stick the pole in a river, climb it, and attempt to land in the sand on the other side. The record jump is 72 feet, 10 inches.
10. Dog Surfing
Dog surfing is surely the cutest of the strangest sports on our list. As early as the 1920s, surfers in California were training dogs to surf. It truly is impressive how well some of them do. Better than we would do, anyway.
Jousting was a test of knightly skill popular in the middle ages. Knights made names and fortunes for themselves knocking each other off their horses at tournaments. The sport remains popular to this day, though nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be.
8. Gurning Contests
Gurning contests are a tradition in rural England. People compete to see who can ‘gurn’ or ‘chuck’ the best. That is, to see who can make the dumbest faces. If you don’t think this should count as a sport, you’ve clearly never made a stupid face. It’s hard on those cheek muscles, man.
Bo-Taoshi is kind of like the Japanese take on Capture the Flag. You’ll have to have a lot more friends than we do to play it though. To play, you need two teams of 150. Each team has 75 defenders and 75 attackers. The idea is to topple the other team’s pole before they topple yours.
If this sounds like warfare, it is. The game originated in Japanese military academies.
Octopush is basically underwater hockey. Players compete to push a 3-pound puck across the bottom of a pool, attempting to score on one another. The only trouble is it’s really hard to hit people underwater.
5. Pillow Fight League
The Pillow Fight League began in Toronto as a tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotype of women pillow fighting each other. But the league has taken off in surprising ways. It has also become more dangerous, as competitive pillow fighters are fully capable of seriously injuring one another. Combatants frequently suffer bruises, but others have had concussions, lost teeth, and even bruised kidneys.
4. Fireball Soccer
Fireball soccer is exactly like soccer, except the ball is on fire. Players will soak a coconut in kerosene, light it, and then kick it around a bit. Sounds fun and safe, right? Or, you know, sounds like one of the world’s strangest sports.
Cycle ball is soccer played on a bicycle — except the bikes have no brakes or clutch. The players push the ball with the wheels and head of the bike. The sport originated in Germany, where it has been played since the late 19th century.
Ferrett-legging doesn’t really exist anymore, but it’s certainly one of the strangest sports ever. It was popular among coal miners in Yorkshire, England in the 1970s. Several men would stick live ferrets down their pants; the winner is the one who can stand it the longest.
Although there have been attempts to revive the sport, it’s pretty much dead. That’s probably the best thing for both ferret and man.
1. Jai Alai
Jai alai is a wall-ball sport that is frequently called the most dangerous game on earth. The balls are hard and can travel at insanely high speeds, enough to seriously injure a player if he loses focus for even a second.