1. Calcio Storico in Florence, Italy
Dating back to the 1500s – a time when killing in sport was encouraged rather than condemned – Calcio Storico is a form of medieval football. In truly manly fashion, there are no rules. Get the ball to the opposite side of the pitch in any way possible – if that involves punching and hair pulling, that’s great. On seeing the game played for the first time, Charles V said that it was “too cruel to be a game, but too small to be a war.”
2. Kabaddi in Asia
Kabaddi is a sport that could have only come out of pre-historic Asia. This cross between wrestling and tag involves a raider from each team trying to tag out the opposing team without taking a single breath. To prove he’s not breathing, the raider must continually shout “kabaddi.” The defenders must avoid the raider until he takes a breath, or tackle him to the ground, whichever comes first.
3. Fierljeppen (Canal Jumping) in the Netherlands
Fierljeppen dates back to the year 1200 and roughly translates to ‘canal jumping.’ Competitors run and jump onto a 40 foot long submerged pole and try to balance themselves over a canal while climbing high enough to land on the other side.
4. Pacu Jawi (Mud Cow Racing) in Malaysia
Pacu Jawi involves balancing on a plank carried by two cows who run at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. You must keep your balance for as long as possible, and it’s all done over a massive field of mud.
5. Cheese Rolling in the United Kingdom
How far would you go to win a wheel of delicious cheese? Would you chase it down a steep hill at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour? If you somehow survive the journey and catch the cheese, you get to keep it. But most people end up in an ambulance before that. Games are often delayed because all the medical teams are too busy taking people to hospital.
6. Camel Jumping in Yemen
Considering that the average camel is seven feet two inches tall at the hump and easily pissed off, this bizarre sport is actually pretty risky. The winner is whoever manages to jump over the most camels.
7. Fire Coconut Football in Java, Indonesia
Should you wish to recreate this student sport, soak a coconut in kerosene and kick it about barefoot. From there on, the rules are exactly the same as normal soccer.
8. Chess Boxing in Europe and Russia
The winner of this hybrid sport is decided by a knock out or checkmate, whichever comes first. A full match consists of six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. Believe it or not, this sport is so popular in Europe and Russia that there are multiple tournaments to compete in.
9. Onbashira in Japan
Onbashira is a sport played every six years, during a festival by the same name. Participants ride down a hill on a freshly cut pine tree while trying to hold on and not be crushed.
10. Competitive Bee Wearing in China
Every year, bee keepers in China release their stock to see who can get covered from head to toe in a bee-coat. The Guinness World Record holder wore around 87 pounds, which was 350,000 bees. Why? We have no idea, but it’s most likely a show of pride. What’s even worse is that there’s no protective gear – they do it all in swimming trunks.
11. Wife Carrying in Finland
Who wouldn’t want a chance to win their wife’s weight in beer? All you have to do is carry her across an obstacle course. Wife Carrying originated in Finland, where in the late 1800s, a bandit called Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen would steal the wives of other men by carrying them off on his shoulders.
12. Caber Toss in Scotland
Cabers are made from Larch trees and typically weigh in at 200 pounds and 20 feet tall. So picking one up isn’t an easy feat, let alone actually throwing it. In a recent world record attempt, only 66 participants out of 160 were able to pull it off successfully.
13. Botaoshi in Japan
A cross between rugby, king of the hill and capture the flag, Botaoshi is an annual sport at Japanese military schools. Each team is a battalion of soldiers, who have to either protect or remove the man balancing at the top of the pole. It gets incredibly vicious, with each team looking to impress the crowd – some schools have even banned the sport.
14. Wattoluempiade (Mud Olympics) in Brunsbuettel, Germany
Take the regular Olympics, which are already grueling enough, and then add ankle-high mud. Every year, hundreds of competitors get down and dirty playing volleyball, handball and other sports while immersed in the thick, sticky mud flats of the River Elbe.
15. Headis in Germany
Headis takes table tennis to the extreme. This one is relatively easy to participate in, just take a ball and try not to knock yourself out.
16. Sepak Takraw in Malaysia
Sepak takraw is like volleyball, except players are only allowed to use their feet, knees, chest and head to touch the ball. So, if you enjoy literally throwing your body at a ball and hoping you hit it, you’ll love this sport.
17. Hurling in Ireland
Hurling has been an Irish pastime for 2000 years. Players must use a wooden club to carry a small ball and hit it between goal posts. The sport is known as the fastest game on grass, because the balls are hit at speeds of nearly 100 miles per hour – and yes, getting hit by one will leave a mark – if you’re lucky.