Chapter 6. A Popular Equestrian Sports Game of the Central Asian Turkic Peoples: Kok-Boru/Ulak-Tartysh


Mehmet Turkmen
Muş Alparslan University & KTMU, Mus/Turkey

Part of the book: Applications of Traditional Equestrian Sports in the World


In Kok-Boru (also known as Buzkashi, kokpar, and kupkari); the goat is slaughtered and the throat is cut off from the neck, the head is decapitated, the forelegs are cut off from the knees, the hind legs are cut off from the hock, the cannon bone is cut off, and the internal organs are gutted, and then stitched up from the belly with a strong band or cord (the carcass is sometimes steeped in salt water so that it will not break when the players pull it in). Buzkashi is a traditional equestrian game found only among the peoples of Central Asia and played with the carcasses of goats or calves. There were several versions of kok-boru, one of the old Turkic games, under different names (Ulak-Tartysh, Torpok-Tartysh, Buzkashi, etc.) during engagement-wedding ceremonies, mourning ceremonies from region to region, or playing with the carcasses of torpok (1-2 years old cattle/calf or heifer) and goat or ram or male goat. These carcasses are the main element of the game. Even with different accents and dialects, only the common name “Kok-boru” (Grey Wolf/Bozkurt/Blue Wolf/God Wolf) will be able to reach the Turkish world today. Because the game has several risks, the Soviet system changed and reshaped the form, ideas, and rituals of the game. But the popularity of Kok-Boru was so great that it could somehow preserve the archetypal cultural codes every time (Hamchiev et al., 2013:10). It is well known that horseback races inspire in people a sense of independence and increase the feeling of superiority. That is why they are also seen as a show of force. The Kokpar is a race that evokes a sense of deep pride in both spectators and participants in the vast steppes. The race involves young people who are confident, strong, skilled, powerful, and with full reins. Because even if this game is not desired at all, sometimes it can lead to death. Therefore, this game is a race that requires courage, bravery, and intrepidity. This race is held both on horseback and on foot. The word “kozlodranie” (keçi ağlaması/keçi yırtması) in Russian was suggested by the famous writer Cengiz Aitmatov. The word “keçiyi yırtma” took place in his novel, “Farewell, Gul’sary!” (1978: 243). Altaians and Kyrgyz call the game “Kok-boru”, while Altaians call kok[1]boru players “Börüler”1 and Northern Kyrgyz call the game “Ulak[1]tartysh”, and together with Southern Kyrgyz they call the players “Ulakçı” (Simakov, 1984: 35). Bashkirs call this game, which they mostly play with a ram carcass, “Kok-büre”. It is called “Kökpar-tartu” in Kazakhstan, “Kukpari/Ulak” in Uzbekistan, and “Buzkashi” (calf[1]abduction) in Afghanistan and Tajikistan (Yabyshtayev, 2011: 202). The term “kok-boru”, which is the combination of these two words and which has many meanings among Turks, can be considered a religious and social norm as well as a ritual or national motif for some Turkic peoples, although it has lost many of its historical functional meanings. It is not quite clear why Kok-Boru is called ‘Bozkurt’ (Boz[1]boru). However, for the Turks and especially for the Bashkirs it is important to be a ‘messenger of God’, a wolf or such recognition (Qahhr, 1995: 202-204; Aleksiyev, 1987:73). The terms ‘ulak-tartysh’, ‘buzkashi’ and ‘torpok tartysh’ were used for the game. Here, ulak/uğlak means goat, buziga/buzga/buz mean calf (buzağı); and torpok means cattle aged 1-2 years. Tartış/tartmay/tartişiş/kaçi/kaşi refers to tug/pull/tackle/chase/carry (Gabain, 2000: 271). The name “Kok-boru”, which carries religious, totemic, mythological, and legends, is the oldest and most widespread name of the game in the Turkish world and carries social values and even social norms (Bektenov, 1978: 116; Ömürzakov, 1981: 6; Toktorbaev, 1991: 76; Saralaev, 1993: 72). It can be seen that these historical, mythological, functional and original designations were written alongside time (kokbori/kokpar/kokpori, etc.). Also, the naming of Ulak-Tartysh, Buzkhasi, Torpok-Tartysh, etc. which was used in the 20th century (animal name of the rope used in the game), have become widespread. There are more ritual meanings in the Kok-Boru game than the game content (Bobyliov, 1989: 26).

Keywords: Kok-boru, equestrian sports, ulak-tartysh


Turkman, Mehmet (2020). “Türkistan’ın Kadim Bir Atlı Oyunu: Kök-Börü [An Ancient Equestrian Game of Turkistan: Kök-Börü]”, Scientific and Academic Approaches in Sports-6, Part 2. Editor-in-Chief/Editor in Chief , Eda Altunel, Ankara: Night Library, 29-60. Pages, First Edition/First Edition, December 2020, ISBN: 978-625-7702-86- 7.]. Note: This article titled “Investigation of Traditional Games and Sports in Rock Paintings in Kyrgyzstan” was produced from Project number KTMU- 120 Mehmet Turkmen BAP-2021GOS.01. Since the Scientific Research Project has not been published, we cannot provide references


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