- Buzkashi — literally “goat pulling” in Persian — is Tajikistan’s national sport, though played in other Central Asian countries too. This adrenalin-fuelled game is played on horseback and is the forerunner of modern polo, but it has far more in common with the mounted battles and ram raiding of the past. Players fight it out on the playing field, wrestling and throwing a goat carcass and they score by getting the goat into the goal.
The buzkashi season in Tajikistan starts in November and it’s played through the winter months to April. Players in Tajikistan follow a local version of the rules and still wear their traditional costumes. Competing — and winning — is a matter of family honour. Buzkashi is far more than a sport: it’s a celebration of skill, strength, and coming together as a community.
Seeing a real match take place is the highlight of any visit to Tajikistan. With Paramount Journey you can opt for either a one-day Buzkashi experience in the Khujand Hippodrome, or join a longer photography trip to really get to know the players and understand the game. If you’re an accomplished horseman you can join in the match, but it’s no less exciting to be a spectator.
On our buzkashi day tour you’ll be collected early from your hotel and transferred to the buzkashi arena in the Khujand Hippodrome. Before the match begins, your guide will explain the rules, and give you a short but essential safety briefing. If you are planning to ride, you’ll meet your horse and get tacked up; otherwise you’ll be led to the best spot in the arena and get tips on how to capture some epic action shots.
You’ll be hoarse with cheering and shouting, and feel the buzz of the crowds around you. It’s the perfect way to immerse yourself in Tajik culture and to meet local people. The match proceeds at breakneck speed, and a single misjudged turn, throw, or fall can determine the outcome. Every goal nets its scorer a prize: anything from cash or a carpet to a sheep, a goat, or a stallion. In the most prestigious competitions, the goal scorer might even take home a car! You’ll mark the end of the day with a feast in a traditional Tajik restaurant.
We’ve created multi-day buzkashi tour options, which vary in length from three days to two weeks or more. These highly flexible programmes are specifically for professional photographers and film crews.
It can be hard for foreign visitors to find the right contacts and manage the logistics for a buzkashi shoot. We therefore use our connections with players and the Horse Sport Association of Tajikistan to identify the right people, and set up interviews and training demonstrations.
The date and place of matches is usually only publish a week or two in advance, and cancellations are common. But thanks to our close relationship with the Horse Sport Association, we are notified of the match schedule five to six weeks beforehand, and try to make sure that targeted games happen. We plan every itinerary individually based on this firsthand information.
The first day will be your introduction to buzkashi. You’ll learn about the sport and its tradition, and what it takes to become a competent chovandoz (buzkashi player). You’ll join a buzkashi training session and get close to the players and their horses. We organise this training demonstration ourself so you can easily adjust the scene however you want.
For many photographers and film crews, the buzkashi story is about the players. We set up portraiture shoots, and often players will welcome you into their homes so you can meet their families and get to know them better. Scenes of buzkashi players gathered in their villages give the story a real sense of place. It’s the ideal opportunity to capture the players’ down time and to better understand their personalities and interests.
And then there are the buzkashi matches themselves. We’ve drawn on our previous experience hosting professional documentary photographers and film makers to ensure you can build a compelling narrative with all of the shots you need.
A Film of Buzkashi in Khujand Hippodrome by Paramount Journey
- Guide Service
- Transportation (Jeep or Minivan 4WD)
- Lunch and dinner
- All permits and taxes
- Hotel pick up/drop off
- Horse rental
- Personal kit and equipment
- Alcoholic beverage
- Travel Insurance
- Gratuities to guide and drivers
• Sport shoes
• Warm and windproof clothes
• Rain jacket and pants
• Helmet (if you ride a horse)