The Strangest Sports From Around The World

The Strangest Sports From Around The World

We’re all familiar with football, baseball, basketball, hockey. But what are the world’s strangest sports? From tongue-in-cheek parody games to legitimate sports that just aren’t as well known, here are the weirdest ways athletes around the world showcase their prowess. Play ball!

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Photo by Olga Guryanova on Unsplash

40. Lumberjack World Championships

Calling all lumberjacks. This unique competition is held annually in Hayward Wisconsin. There are 21 events, including log rolling, chopping, and pole climbing. It may be one of the world’s strangest sports, but the stakes are very real. Total prizes amount to more than $50,000.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
The 2011 World Lumberjack Championships elisfkc / Wikimedia

39. Kaninhoppning

You’ve heard of dog shows, you’ve heard of horse shows. However, you’ve probably never heard of rabbit shows. That’s what kaninhoppning is. It began in Sweden in the 1970s, but has since gained popularity worldwide.

By the way, if you’re wondering what the record rabbit jump is… 42 inches.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Hop like a bunny Isabelle Dahlgren / Wikimedia

38. Hobbyhorsing

Hobbyhorsing is Finland’s latest sports craze. Thousands of people — many of them young women — show up to various venues with stick horses. They then “race” their horses around circuits, just like genuine equestrians. Except, of course, it’s the people doing the running.

One of the world’s strangest sports, perhaps, but good wholesome fun.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Here comes the hobby cavalry Paula Kutvonen / Flickr

37. Cardboard Tube Fighting League

What kid didn’t fight with cardboard tubes as swords back in the day? Now the Cardboard Tube Fighting League has extended that fun into adulthood. The league organizes “battles” in California and Australia. The goal is to break your opponent’s cardboard sword without breaking your own.

The league’s professed goal is to remind people not to take themselves too seriously. Sounds like a worthy objective to us!

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Don’t take yourself too seriously Helen Cook / Flickr

36. Redneck Games

Although they no longer take place, the Redneck Games will forever hold a place in our hearts. With events like bobbing for pigs’ feet, the toilet seat toss, and mud belly flops, the Games were good old fashioned fun.

They were first created in 1996 for satirical reasons. When Atlanta was chosen to host the Olympics, some outsiders said the hosts were ‘rednecks.’ The response from the people of Georgia was to create the Redneck Games to mock those who mocked them.

R.I.P. to one of the strangest sports events ever, and one of the funniest.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
The Redneck Games: the Olympics of satire Joe Sepielli / Flickr

35. Extreme Ironing

Is there any household task more boring than ironing? Think again!

Extreme ironing is really simple: take your ironing board to a dangerous or extreme location… and iron away. People have done extreme ironing all over the place. On cliffs. While skiing. Underwater. Even while skydiving.

As the organizers put it, the sport “combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Could you iron in the rain? In the dark? On a train? highlander411 / Flickr

34. Kaiju Big Battel

Kaiju Big Battel is a version of wrestling that has been taking place in New York since 1995. It’s a combination of the WWE and Japanese monster movies. Basically, people dressed as city-destroying monsters fight each other in the right for the amusement of onlookers.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
It’s a literal monster mash Michael Miller / Flickr

33. Calcio Storico

Imagine soccer, only played shirtless in a sand pit and with full-blown fighting. That’s what calcio storico is. It’s an early version of soccer that originated in Florence in the 16th century. But its history may go back further. Some believe it’s a reworked version of the Ancient Roman sport of harpastum.

Not only one of the strangest sports, but one of the oldest too.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Calcio storico is not a sport for the faint of heart Lorenzo Noccioli / Wikimedia

32. Giant Pumpkin Regatta

The annual pumpkin regatta is held in Windsor, Nova Scotia. It’s a half-mile kayak race, but there’s a catch. Instead of kayaks, the competitors use hollowed out giant pumpkins.

The all-time champ is Leo Swinamer, a septuagenarian who won 6 of the first 10 races.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Don’t mind me, just kayaking a pumpkin Portland Corps / Flickr

31. Buzkashi

The word ‘Buzkashi’ literally means ‘goat pulling.’ In fact, that’s exactly what this sport is. Basically, a bunch of horse riders fight over the body of a dead goat. In some versions, the objective is simply to seize the goat and break away from the pack. In other versions, the goal is to take the goat into the other team’s endzone.

The sport dates back centuries, and remains popular in Afghanistan.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Buzkashi in full swing Gideon Tsang / Wikimedia

30. Quidditch

We may be muggles, but that doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in Quidditch. The popular sport from the Harry Potter franchise has inspired a real-life sport that’s played on the ground, without broomsticks. Unlike some of the other strangest sports, this one has attracted a real following. Even some major colleges — such as UC Berkeley — have started Quidditch programs.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Just because you can’t fly doesn’t mean you can’t play Quidditch Ben Holland Photography / Wikimedia

29. Chess Boxing

It’s exactly what it sounds like. One round of chess. One round of boxing. Then back to the chessboard. To win, you either need to knock your opponent out or checkmate him. It’s an interesting fusion of brain and brawn.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Brains and brawn are both required to prevail WCBO / Wikimedia

28.  Tuna Tossing

Tuna tossing began in the Australian fishing town of Port Lincoln way back in 1979. It’s exactly what it sounds like: toss a tuna as far as you can. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The best technique is to spin several times before releasing the fish, much like hammer throwing. Indeed, the tuna tossing record is held by Olympic hammer thrower Sean Carlin. His record? 122 feet.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
“Toss me! … Don’t tell the elf.” – Gimli the tuna Image by WikiImages from Pixabay

27. Shin-Kicking

Here’s another one that’s real simple. Shin-kicking is a combat sport that involves kicking your opponents (guess where) until they fall to the ground. If it sounds like some kind of joke to you, think again. This sport has been popular in the UK since the 17th century. Some have even gone so far as to call it “an English martial art.”


The Strangest Sports From Around The World
There no no shin guards in shin kicking Image by Phillip Kofler from Pixabay

26. Toe Wrestling

Here’s another UK original. Toe wrestling was invented by a group of barflies in the 1970s. They were upset that the UK didn’t produce many wrestling champions. As a result, they decided to invent a new style of wrestling that no one else would know about. Therefore, they would be the champs by default!

Although toe wrestling is undoubtedly one of the world’s strangest sports, it has proven popular. It’s sort of like playing thumb war. Opponents press their feet together, and try to ‘pin’ their opponents toes for 3 seconds to claim victory.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Ten little warriors ready for battle Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

25. Lawn Mower Racing

The UK may just be the world capital of strange sports. In 1968, the first lawn mower race was held there. It’s a charming cross between go-karting, Formula One, and gardening. Since the ’60s, the sport has spread to the United States as well — particularly North Carolina, New Mexico, and Missouri.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Slice and dice, baby Henry Burrows / Flickr

24. Wife Carrying

Marriage is all about carrying each other, isn’t it? In this, literally. This one originated in Finland. The objective is to carry your wife across an obstacle course as quickly as possible. Some tracks even include water obstacles. How you carry your wife is your business.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
A new meaning to “the old ball and chain” U.S. Air Force photo / Cortney Paxton / Wikimedia

23. Armored Combat League

This is not LARPing. The Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) organizes heavy combat trials that are designed to mimic the realities of Medieval melee fighting. Some of these battles are one-on-one; some are group fights consisting of as many as 2,000 people.

Not to worry: the combatants wear heavy armor and their weapons are made of rattan rather than steel.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
We who are about to die salute you Adriaan Wessels / Wikimedia

22. Bog Snorkeling

It may be one of the strangest sports, but bog snorkeling still sounds like more fun than the Polar Bear dip.

Originating in Wales, bog snorkeling challenges swimmers to swim 120 yards through a peat bog. There are a couple of catches, however. Firstly, swimmers must wear a snorkel and fins. Secondly, no conventional swimming strokes allowed.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Feeling bogged down? Rud-gr / Wikimedia

21. Kabaddi

Kabaddi is like tag, only much harder. The sport originated in India and is played between two teams of 7 players each. One player is ‘it’; their objective is to break into the opposing zone, tag out the other team, and escape without being tackled.

No one knows exactly where or when the sport originated. It may first have been played in the 7th century BC! Isn’t it amazing to think there were people playing tag 2,700 years ago? Strange sports certainly unify humanity, not only across space but time as well.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Kabaddi guys going at it Avinashsatamraju / Wikimedia

20. Underwater Football

Underwater was invented by scuba-diving teacher Dave Murdoch back in the 1960s. It has evolved from being a game of keep-away to being a full-fledged game of football played while wearing scuba equipment.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
It’s harder to punt underwater U.S. Navy / Wikimedia

19. Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw might be the coolest of our strangest sports on this list. It’s also known as kick volleyball. Unlike volleyball, you can’t use your hands to play the ball. Feet, knees, chests, and heads only. Sepak Takraw is enduringly popular in Southeast Asia. It’s definitely invites impressive feats of athleticism.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Sepak Takraw is definitely an impressive sport Republic of Korea / Wikimedia

18. Unicycle Hockey

Unicycle hockey is exactly like regular old ball hockey. Oh, except there’s one catch. You have to be on a unicycle. It may look silly, but if you’ve ever tried to ride a unicycle or play hockey, you’ll understand this is one of the tougher ‘strangest sports’ on the list.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
One part NHL, one part Cirque du Soleil Tscheipi / Wikimedia

17. Bossaball

Here’s the bounciest of our strangest sports.

Bossaball is a lot like volleyball, only it’s played on a giant trampoline. It was invented in Spain in 2005, but has quickly spread around the world. It’s popular in South America, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. And frankly, we can see why: who doesn’t love trampoline sports?

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
You had me at “trampoline” Bossaball Master / Wikimedia

16. Competitive Worm Charming

You know snake charming? Yeah, this is like this, except… no, it isn’t.

Worm charming is the art of seducing worms out of the ground. In the old days, this was a way of acquiring fish bait. These days, it’s a lost skill, and the subject of one of the world’s strangest sports.

Competitors tap on the ground in an attempt to collect more worms than their rivals.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Here, wormy wormy wormy Graham Shaw / Wikimedia

15. Competitive Rock Paper Scissors

We all played this one as kids. But some people never stopped. There is, in fact, a small but devoted community of competitive rock-paper-scissors player. You laugh, but the prizes can get as lucrative as $50,000. Wanna play?

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Not just a childhood game Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

14. Bubble Soccer

I’ve actually tried this one. It’s exactly like soccer, except all the players are wearing giant bubbles. This makes it hard to see, hear, communicate, and remain on your feet. The objective of the game is nominally to score goals. However, it usually devolves into trying to knock over as many other players as possible. Even if they’re on your team.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
It’s fun living in a bubble Texas A&M University Commerce Marketing Communications Photography / Wikimedia

13. Cheese Chasing

The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is a tradition in Gloucester, England. A wheel of cheese is rolled down a hill, and locals chase after it. The winner gets to keep the cheese. The losers… usually end up bruised and battered. Who can blame them? It’s a steep hill.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
These people will do anything for a wheel of cheese Michael Warren / Flickr

12. Punkin Chunkin

It’s also known as ‘Pumpkin Chucking’, which maybe gives a bit more context. The idea is to see who can toss a pumpkin the farthest by mechanical means. Competitors build catapults and trebuchets, taking ‘smashing pumpkins’ to a whole new level.

The record was set in 2013 by a team called American Chunker Inc: 4,694 feet.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Release the pumpkins Chris Connelly / Flickr

11. Fierljeppen

Fierljeppen is pole vaulting for people who want to die. The sport originated in the Netherlands in the 18th century. Athletes use a pole as long as 43 feet. They take a running jump, stick the pole in a river, climb it, and attempt to land in the sand on the other side. The record jump is 72 feet, 10 inches.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Pole vaulting for people who are crazy Peter van der Sluijs / Wikimedia

10. Dog Surfing

Dog surfing is surely the cutest of the strangest sports on our list. As early as the 1920s, surfers in California were training dogs to surf. It truly is impressive how well some of them do. Better than we would do, anyway.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Doggy takes to the waves Mike's Birds / Wikimedia

9. Jousting

Jousting was a test of knightly skill popular in the middle ages. Knights made names and fortunes for themselves knocking each other off their horses at tournaments. The sport remains popular to this day, though nowhere near as dangerous as it used to be.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
For some, Medieval times never ended Image by Clarence Alford from Pixabay

8. Gurning Contests

Gurning contests are a tradition in rural England. People compete to see who can ‘gurn’ or ‘chuck’ the best. That is, to see who can make the dumbest faces. If you don’t think this should count as a sport, you’ve clearly never made a stupid face. It’s hard on those cheek muscles, man.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Gurning is a sport for your face Entertainers Worldwide / Flickr

7. Bo-Taoshi

Bo-Taoshi is kind of like the Japanese take on Capture the Flag. You’ll have to have a lot more friends than we do to play it though. To play, you need two teams of 150. Each team has 75 defenders and 75 attackers. The idea is to topple the other team’s pole before they topple yours.

If this sounds like warfare, it is. The game originated in Japanese military academies.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Bo-Taoshi is organized chaos DozoDomo / Wikimedia

6. Octopush

Octopush is basically underwater hockey. Players compete to push a 3-pound puck across the bottom of a pool, attempting to score on one another. The only trouble is it’s really hard to hit people underwater.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Hockey meets diving Wikimedia

5. Pillow Fight League

The Pillow Fight League began in Toronto as a tongue-in-cheek take on the stereotype of women pillow fighting each other. But the league has taken off in surprising ways. It has also become more dangerous, as competitive pillow fighters are fully capable of seriously injuring one another. Combatants frequently suffer bruises, but others have had concussions, lost teeth, and even bruised kidneys.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Pillow fights aren’t just for dorm rooms anymore Karen Ho / Flickr

4. Fireball Soccer

Fireball soccer is exactly like soccer, except the ball is on fire. Players will soak a coconut in kerosene, light it, and then kick it around a bit. Sounds fun and safe, right? Or, you know, sounds like one of the world’s strangest sports.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Burn, baby, burn Image by xresch from Pixabay

3. Cycle-Ball

Cycle ball is soccer played on a bicycle — except the bikes have no brakes or clutch. The players push the ball with the wheels and head of the bike. The sport originated in Germany, where it has been played since the late 19th century.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Cycle ballers Kurukuruback / Wikimedia

2. Ferret-Legging

Ferrett-legging doesn’t really exist anymore, but it’s certainly one of the strangest sports ever. It was popular among coal miners in Yorkshire, England in the 1970s. Several men would stick live ferrets down their pants; the winner is the one who can stand it the longest.

Although there have been attempts to revive the sport, it’s pretty much dead. That’s probably the best thing for both ferret and man.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
He only wants to get in your pants Image by Michael Sehlmeyer from Pixabay

1. Jai Alai

Jai alai is a wall-ball sport that is frequently called the most dangerous game on earth. The balls are hard and can travel at insanely high speeds, enough to seriously injure a player if he loses focus for even a second.

The Strangest Sports From Around The World
Jai alai: the most dangerous game Lander Eizagirre / Wikimedia