Sports, in general, are prevalent. Millions – even billions – of people either follow or partake in a sport in some capacity or another. Traditionally, we tend to think of sports such as hockey, soccer, football, basketball, and baseball, among others.
But what you may not have realized is that there are a plethora of sports out there that are just as cool and unique that doesn’t have nearly the following. So here are ten sports in particular that you probably didn’t know existed.
1. Elephant Polo
Most of us are likely familiar with polo, but did you know that the sport is played on elephant-back in India, Nepal, and Thailand? The equipment costs are about the same as they would be for polo with the addition of a small elephant.
A pair of riders steer the elephant while also chasing and hitting a ball. Of course, there are inherent dangers because of the involvement of such large animals, but it certainly is a unique sport.
2. Medieval Football
This is one of the few sports that has ties going back centuries. It works in many ways as traditional football does but with a few differences. For one, it is played annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Not only that, it is played in Ashbourne in Derbyshire, England.
The game ties back to the 12th century and goes by “hugball” in some circles. However, there is also a dark side to the game: there are theories that the original ball was a severed head tossed into the crowd after an execution.
3. Toe Wrestling
One, two, three, four, I declare a…toe war? Of course, we’ve heard of arm wrestling and even leg wrestling before, but this one has competitors going toe-to-toe: literally.
This sport goes back to the 1970s as some Brits were looking to gain a sports world title. The rules are simple: no socks, no shoes, just two competitors locked together at the toe to pin their opponent’s foot. It is just like thumb wars but at the opposite end of the body.
This one looks and feels like a combination between hockey and soccer. It incorporates sticks and a ball and does get confused with field hockey because they share some major significance.
The player can use both sides of their stick, called a caman, and can play the ball in the air. It can also be used to both tackle and block. That said, a player can’t come down on another player’s stick, which is known as hacking. Shoulder-to-shoulder body tackles are also a standard part of the game.
5. Shin Kicking
Some of these niche sports emanate from the United Kingdom, with this one coming from England back in the early 17th century. The concept is as it sounds, too: a pair of contestants kicking each other in the shin until one goes down.
It has found a niche following in the UK and even has its own World Championship event that is part of the Cotswold Olimpick Games, which takes place yearly on Dover’s Hill, England.
6. Underwater Hockey
More than a few sports have been adapted either for or from the pool. For example, underwater hockey, also called Octopush, is played across the globe. It is just as you would think: two teams pushing a puck across the pool floor using a stick.
The objective is to score as many goals on your opponent as possible, and it has its own World Championship event going back to 1980.
7. Sepak Takraw
This game is native to Southeast Asia and, if you were to watch a match, it might look at least a little familiar. That is because it follows the basic principles of volleyball. There is one catch, however.
Players are not allowed to use their arms to pass the ball around. Instead, they primarily use their legs and even heads, making spectacular plays. Oh, the ball is also played using a dried palm leaf ball.
8. Wife Carrying
This might be one of the more well-known niche “sports” out there. News publications around the globe have covered it for the sheer uniqueness of the event. It is just as it sounds: men carry their wives (or neighbor or someone they know) across an obstacle course.
There is the North American Wife Carrying Championship, where the winner gets their wife’s weight in beer and an entry into the World Championship, which is held in Finland.
9. Cheese Rolling
This event, held at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucestershire, England, has gained some notoriety in recent years because of the sheer hilarity.
The event is simple: a giant wheel of cheese is rolled down a hill. The first person to reach the bottom wins the wheel. But, unfortunately, it usually leads to tumbling, cartwheeling, and otherwise rolling down the hill more often than not.
10. Ice Dragon Boat Racing
Taking place in China because of the reverence for dragons, it is basically like a boat on skates. There is even an International Ice Dragon Boat Federation, cementing it as a sport.
Each boat has steering and braking devices, rowers who propel the boat across the ice surface, and a pair of skates to help it glide without damaging the ice. So think about any rowing contest you’ve seen but strap some skates on the bottom of the boat, throw some coats on everyone, and have it take place on a frozen body of water instead.