By Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw
Sport takes many forms and around the world there are a number of unusual - if not, bizarre – sporting competitions.
Here are just a few of them.
Perhaps the most intriguing one is ostrich racing, which originated in Africa and is now popular in the US. Competitors sit on ostriches and race them around a track. The ostriches can reach up to 43 miles per hour and their legs can reach up to 16 feet in a single stride.
Camel racing is also popular in several countries around the world, including Australia, North Africa and the UAE. In short sprints, camels can reach a speed of 40 miles per hour and can maintain a speed, for an hour, of 25 miles per hour. Formerly, they were ridden by child ‘jockeys’ but nowadays they race without any ‘jockeys’ but are controlled by remote robotic whips!
Elephant polo is another unusual sport, which is similar to regular polo, except that it is played on elephants instead of ponies. It is fondly known as ‘the biggest sport in the world’ and is regulated by the ‘World Elephant Polo Association’ which was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in Nepal!
Many of these unusual sports have world championships, like wife carrying. This sport originated in Finland and spread to North America in 1999. It involves a man carrying a woman - to whom he may or may not be legally married - on his back around an obstacle course. If the man drops the woman, his team incurs a time penalty of 5 seconds. The winner is the team that completes the course in the fastest time.
Tiddlywinks is another one which organises world championships for singles, pairs and team players.
Cheese rolling is another popular sport, which involves a large cheese wheel that is rolled down a steep hill and the competitors race after it. The first person to make it down the hill wins the cheese. This sport dates back several centuries and attracts around 40 competitors. The cheese wheel can reach speeds of more than 70 miles per hour.
Finally, mention may be made of cycleball, which is played between two teams of two on bicycles without any breaks. The aim is to get the ball into the goal, with the competitors using only their wheels and their heads.
As the former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, once remarked: “it’s a funny old world!”
Prof Dr Ian Blackshaw may be contacted by e-mail at ‘