Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Strange But True Sports from Around the World

Posted on February 09, 2017 by Angela Tempest

cheese-rollingSport is a massive part of many people’s lives, whether as something that they participate in, go to watch in person or enjoy watching on the TV.  From football and cricket to rugby, athletics and American football, there are lots of sports that cross borders and are popular around the world.  Then there are the weird sports you don’t know about, the ones that might not get their own TV channel or massive Facebook following…

Oil Wrestling

Many fans of wrestling will have seen the big names engaged in competitions under spotlights with hundreds of fans cheering them on.  Oil wrestling doesn’t have quite the same following but is popular across Turkey, Greece and parts of Macedonia.  There is an annual festival in Kirkpinar, Turkey that dates back to 1357.  The idea is simple – participants are covered in olive oil and have to wrest their opponent to the ground.  It has recently spread to Japan and Netherlands among other locations.


Zorbing is a bit of a mixture of sports and fitness and involves people getting into giant plastic inflatable orbs and running down a gentle slope.  You can also do it on a level area if you want a little more control.  People race each other and there can be plenty of good natured collisions to knock your friend out of position but it doesn’t seem likely to be enrolled in the Olympics any time soon!

Cheese rolling

This one comes from Gloucester in the UK where every last weekend in May (a Bank Holiday) people gather to roll a three-kilogram wheel of cheese down Cooper’s Hill in the city.  People don’t race cheeses but actually race each other and the first person to pass the finish line, after the cheese, wins the title – and the cheese.  But beware – this cheese can hit 30mph so some training is required beforehand.

Hamster racing

Forget horse or greyhound racing, hamster racing is where the big money is – or not.  In this sport, hamsters are placed in special miniature racing vehicles, wheels or balls and raced along a 9 meter straight course, with the fastest to reach the end being the winner.  And the skills involved are impressive – the current speed record-holder covered the distance in just 38 seconds.  The sport developed in the early 2000s when the foot and mouth outbreak cancelled horse racing and other events and has continued to grow since then.  Bookmakers even offer odds on certain events.

Log rolling

Log rolling, or burling, is a sport where participants have to balance on a floating log and has developed into a two person sport where the second person keeps the log in the water.  It developed from skills used by lumberjacks and there are now official standards of log sizes and competition rules in both the USA and Canada.  The sport is usually a best of three or five competition style.

Kudu dung-spitting

If you are the proud owner of a kudu antelope and live in South Africa, then you can get involved with Kudu dung-spitting competitions.  This sport has an annual world championship where participants come to see how far they can spit a pellet kudu dung.  The current world record stands at 15.56 meters or 51 feet, set in Shaun van Rensburg in 2006.

Sheep counting

If this all sounds a bit active for your tastes, then why not consider the sport of sheep counting?  This Australian sport involves a heart of around 400 sheep being set to dash past competitors, who have to count how many they see.  The winner is the person who gets closest to the correct number – and probably, who doesn’t fall asleep!

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