There are 195 countries in the world. 7.7 billion people. Countless cultures. Endless opportunities to define “athleticism.” That’s why this wonderful world we live in is home to some of the boldest, most adventurous, and downright bizarre sports you’ll ever encounter.
I took it upon myself to find out what some of these offbeat sports are, and all I can say is wow. Basketball, soccer, and all other mainstream sports seam pretty spiritless compared to something as wacky as lawnmower racing or Russian slap fighting.
Below, check out the top 7 most offbeat sports in the world that you’ve probably never heard of.
Starting off with one of the less weird sports, underwater rugby is exactly what it sounds like. Rugby, but underwater.
The idea of the game is simple: Two teams try to score a ball filled with saltwater (for buoyancy) into the opposing team’s goal located at the bottom of the pool.
Another sport that’s fairly self explanatory is lawnmower racing. Competitors race modified lawnmowers around a track like a race car. We’re talking open wheel racing, my friends. This is pretty riveting stuff.
Here are the official verbatim rules of the game from the U.S. Lawn Mower Racing Association Rulebook:
- CUTTING BLADES MUST BE REMOVED COMPLETELY FROM ALL MOWERS.
- Non-stock mowers must be equipped with an automatic throttle closing device.
- All mowers must be equipped with an engine safety cut-off switch.
- Mower brakes must be in good condition, operating on at least 2 wheels.
- Fuel must be pump gas. The only additive allowed is STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer.
Calcio Storico is an Italian sport that combines soccer, wrestling, and rugby — meaning it is one brutally aggressive sport. Two teams of 27 players brawl in a messy tangle of fists, knees and blood to get a ball into the opposing team’s goal at ends of a playing field.
The game has about three major rules, the violation of which results in expulsion from the game. According to ESPN, the rules are:
- “No striking an opponent from behind (striking refers to punches, kicks and similar tactics; rugby-style tackles are still permitted).”
- “No striking an opponent who is already on the ground. You may pin somebody down, however.”
- “No ganging up. If an opponent is already physically engaged with one of your teammates, you may not touch him unless he is carrying the ball.”
Calcio Storico originated in 16th century Florence, and it still carries that historical significance today as four teams of the historical neighborhoods of the city play against each other in historical costume. Good stuff!
Turkish Oil Wrestling
Turkish oil wrestling may be Turkey’s national sport and one of the oldest in the country, but to outsiders who haven’t seen anything like it, it might look a little weird to see men greasing themselves up in olive oil and grappling in the grass.
So, here’s the scoop on Turkish Oil Wrestling: The object is to win by getting your opponent on the ground in a position where his belly button is facing the sky. Simple enough.
But the point of the oil is to make it damn near impossible to get a proper grip on your opponent, and to make it more about skill than brute strength. Plus, the wrestlers wear a special leather pant called a kıspet that’s made of water buffalo leather, weighing in at a whopping 30-ish pounds.
Russian Slap Fighting
Imagine this: Two men stand across from each other. One slaps the other. The slap is returned. They slap each other back and forth until one is all slapped out and cannot continue. The winner is declared.
This is Russian slap fighting.
This bizarre combat sport involves facing your opponent, holding him by the collar, and kicking him in the shin repeatedly to force him to the ground. The loser cries out “enough!” when he surrenders. That’s literally the entire game.
And here’s a fun fact: Way back when, fans of the sport apparently wore steel-toe boots during the competition and even hit their shins with hammers to build tolerance to the blinding pain of having their shins nearly shattered. Modern competitions, however, require stuffing pants with hay and wearing soft shoes. Lame.
Use your brain and then your brawn in this hybrid brain-body mashup sport that combines the classic brain game of chess with the brutality of boxing. If you’re wondering why something like this exists, I don’t have a good answer for you. I can only assume it’s because it’s funny to see two men calmly playing chess and pretending like they’re not about to throw punches and knock each other out.
The sport consists of 11 total rounds; 6 rounds of chess and 5 rounds of boxing. A victory in either category marks the end of the game and reveals the winner. I mean, the whole concept is super weird, but that’s what we’re here for.