Sports are a part of many of our lives, whether we were forced to play in gym class or participate recreationally. Physical activity is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. But one thing will always remain true: there are a lot of strange sports out there. If you always felt as though the traditional sports never quite fit your fancy, or if you just want a good laugh, these are a few sports you may never have heard of.
Chicken fighting is a water sport that has nothing to do with chickens. Many of you probably played this at some point or another, either in the pool or at the beach. The sport is simple. Players team up in two teams of two, with one person on each team giving a piggyback to their partner. The two people on top grapple with each other until one or both members of a team are knocked over. The game goes by many names, including camel fights and shoulder wars. There is a Japanese game similar to this one called Kibasen, which takes place out of the water and is typically played on sports days. It involves two teams of four, with three players taking the base and holding up the fourth, who is wearing either a bandana or hat. A team wins by removing the bandana or hat, or by knocking one or more opponents down.
Finger jousting is a combination of jousting and thumb wrestling, and involves two people facing off as opponents, attempting to win by poking the other. There is a World Finger Jousting Federation, which holds a list of surprisingly complicated rules for the sport. Players must use their right index finger as the lance, keeping their right arms locked in an arm wrestling position. Players are banned from using their legs in an offensive manner. The two can poke each other anywhere on the opponent’s body besides the jousting arm, so long as the two stay with their arms locked in the proper position. There are two recognized versions of this sport: quick play and point play. Quick play is used in leisurely, often more friendly matches, while point play is reserved for championships and more intense gameplay.
The World Kissing Competition is held annually in Italy, and consists of what can be called Olympic kissing games. Games in the championship range from general kissing to underwater kissing, in which players must see who can hold a kiss the longest beneath the surface of the pool. While Italy has an annual competition, many places have frequent kissing competitions as well, including Thailand, China, and Serbia.
The World Pooh Sticks Championship was originally born from a Winnie the Pooh short film, in which Pooh and his pals gather on a bridge overlooking a creek. Each character throws a singular stick into the water before rushing to the other side of the bridge to see whose stick made it to the other side first. After the release of this short film, many children took to playing the game with their friends. The game slowly found its way into the limelight, and a World Pooh Sticks Championship was born. This championship celebrated its 40th anniversary in May of this year on the River Thames, and had a very successful turnout. People go all out for the championship, with many dressing up and cosplaying as their favourite Winnie the Pooh characters. There are many different leagues, ranging from children to adults, and each participant is given a competition approved stick to ensure that everything is fair for all players.
This next sport may sound good or bad, depending on whether or not you were the kicker on your school playground or the kid who got kicked. Shin kicking is a legitimate sport, in which two players face off, taking turns kicking each other in the shins until one player yells the word “sufficient” as they writhe in pain. Shin kicking has been called a few different names, including purring and shin diggings. It originated among Cornish miners who would play the game to solve disputes amongst each other. It quickly became a subset of Cornish wrestling, eventually moving into the lineup for the Cotswold Olimpick Games. It was even considered an English martial art for a time. There are competitions and world championships for these as well, which usually take place in the United Kingdom (UK). The rules are simple and uncomplicated, with each player grabbing the other either by the collar or the shoulders, striking their opponents with the inside of the feet or toes. Competitions are ten rounds long, with someone winning if the referee has counted six out of ten rounds won by a single player. The dress code typically consists of a white coat to represent a shepherd smock, soft shoes, and straw stuffed down the pants for padding.
If you find yourself stuck between wanting to perform flip tricks or sitting down, you may not need to choose. Sporthocking is a German sport which involves the use of a custom stool that becomes two wheels when flipped on its side. Competitors put on lively shows of extreme or dance-like flip tricks with their chairs, interjecting the flip tricks with various moments of temporary sitting. The flip tricks are not performed entirely with feet, and often involve juggling as well. While sporthocking can be performed as a single activity, it can also be done in teams, of which there are intense ranking categories in Germany.
Unicycle football is perhaps the most ridiculous rendition of football thus far, beating out three-sided football in terms of silliness. Three-sided football is a triangular version of soccer, and features three teams on a hexagonal field, and is a game focused on mathematical concepts of the sport. Unicycle football, on the other hand, is practically the same as American football in every way, except there is no running, only a constant balancing act. The field is not grass; it is a concrete five on five ‘flackle’ (a combination of the words ‘flag’ and ‘tackle’). There are a total of eight teams that face off against one another every Sunday for 56 games in a season. Unicycle football is currently in its 15th season, and has yet to expand outside San Marcos, Texas.
Underwater hockey, also called octopush in the UK, is a limited-contact sport in which people push around a hockey puck while fully submerged underwater. The sticks are laughably tiny, and the sport is quite dangerous, as players have to come up for air and are barred from using scuba equipment while playing. Originating in England in 1954, the game became a semi-popular global sport, moving to Canada, Australia, and South Africa in the 1960s, and then to Thailand in the 1970s. It saw its first global championship in 1980, and has continued ever since.
Competitive table scaping may be familiar to those of you who are fans of the TV show Bob’s Burgers, but in most settings, it would be hard to consider this a sport. That does not stop it from being considered, and in fact, the competitions are creatively taxing, and many of the results are incredibly impressive. Contestants are either given free reign to pick their own theme, or they are given a list of themes to pick from, as well as a list of parameters including things such as table size or the types of foods allowed. They are judged after the allotted time on the overall thematic choice, their creative interpretation of it, and the craftsmanship and perfection of the piece. A competition is held annually in the Orange County Fair in California, and is widely considered the Olympics of competitive table setting.
Hobby horsing has gone viral on platforms like TikTok, so you may already be aware of it. For those who are not, hobby horsing is a competitive sport that involves riding stick horse toys around an obstacle course. Contestants are judged on their ability to complete various jumps, tricks, and runs, all on their toy horses. The horses are treated throughout the competition like a real horse would be, and the gasps from audiences regarding imaginary horse injuries is entertaining to say the least. The sport is challenging and taxing, and with all the fierce competition, it is certainly not an easy win. If you consider yourself not a sports lover, maybe one of these sports will make you change your mind!