A dozen of the strangest sports

2004-06-18 13:07
Cape Town - An introduction to some of the world's more curious sports.

Tossing the caber

Tossing the big giant poll is the most familiar trademark of the Scottish Highland games. The origins of caber tossing are unknown, but many people say caber tossing was started by foresters. After cutting down trees in the forests they carried them into the river. For them it was difficult to come up with a less physically challenging method of transporting trees and so this was the only way. The sizes of these tree trunks can differ a great deal but they normally weigh about 68kg, are 5.5m long and about 23cm broad at one end, narrowing to almost l3cm at the other.

Coal Carrying

This is an event which sees competitors carrying a 50kg bag of coal along a gruelling route with a distance of about 1 108 yards. It was established in the 1960s following an argument between two coalmen in one of the villages over who could run fastest with a sack on his back. Since then this event has developed to be amongst the most celebrated sporting events at Gawthorpe, West Yorkshire every year.

Hand Fishing

Grappling, tickling, and marling are some of the terms used to describe hand fishing. Armed with only a stick for tickling the fish out of his den, grapplers (competitors) will search swamps, rivers, and streams for the scrumptious catfish.

Bylong Mouse Race

Bylong, 80km northeast of Mudgee, holds the Bylong Mouse Races, which are held in late March or early April each year. The card features 10 races with 10 mice in each. The winners of each race go into the final event, which is known as the prestigious Bylong Cup. Local kids catch the mice entrants in haystacks. The races are held in a 10m long, 10 'track' high Perspex-sided race box. The origins of this race are unknown.

Tar Barrel Rolling

Tar barrel rolling is a sport practiced by men, women and children, and it requires vast skills to roll the flaming barrels safely through the streets, cheered on by thousands of spectators. Nobody really knows when the tradition of tar barrel rolling originated, but rumour has it that it began during the 17th century. Many people believe it began from pagan customs, which was used as a means to protect themselves against evil spirits. It takes place every year during Guy Fawkes Day in England.

Back-hold Wrestling

As the name suggests, the two opponents tightly grip each other around the waist to the back, while the right hand goes under the opponent's left arm and the chin rests on the opposite right shoulder. When the official is sure that both wrestlers have taken a firm grip, he shouts the word "hold" and the battle begins. Should either wrestler break his hold or by chance touches the floor with any part of his body except his feet he/she loses the match.

Cockroach racing

This type of a race dates back 23 years ago in Australia when two old men were sitting in the bar fighting over which suburb had the biggest and fastest cockroaches. The two men decided to race roaches the next day and history was made. Since then the race has drawn thousands of betters with some catching their cockroaches and some buying them for the competition. The races are held on a circular track with the cockroaches released from an overturned bucket in the middle. The first to reach the edge wins the championship. The second race is the steeplechase event and it is a bit trickier with the runner (cockroaches) having to navigate a circular fence wall, in this case a garden hose, to get to the finish.

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