Introducing yak polo: Adventure sports you’ve never heard of

Nov 05, 2019 BY AWE365 Team

Here at AWE365 we love adventure travel and action sports. So we are pleased to be introducing yak polo. Probably one of the few adventure sports you’ve never heard of!

Introducing yak polo Adventure sports you've never heard of Wikimedia CC image by Ali Zia

So what is Yak Polo?

It’s polo, but instead of horses, the players ride yaks.

Why yaks?

In the high mountainous areas of the Hindu Kush and Pamir ranges in north east Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, horses struggle to cope with the air at altitudes over 3500m. The local people of these regions have taken to using yaks to play polo rather than horses.

How did polo end up here?

Polo originally comes from the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan and was adopted by the British Army to keep the cavalry fit.

The matches are a far cry from the Hurlingham Club. There are no champagne tents, high heels or blokes in blazers called Tarquin. Just huge, dusty polo fields with tea tents and samosa stalls.

The rules are different too in Pakistan polo, also known as frontier polo. Players can check each others sticks and each team has designated chuckers who restart the game if the ball goes out.

It is not uncommon to have pitch invasions and general mayhem. With both players and horses coming off injured.

Where can I watch frontier polo?

The Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir in India both hold many competitions during the summer months. The most famous of these is the annual Shandur Cup in Pakistan.

This is played between the inhabitants of the ancient kingdoms of Chitral and Gilgit. The match takes place on a 3800 m high mountain pass that separates the two kingdoms.

The festival lasts for three days and attracts tens of thousands of spectators. What is usually a barren mountain pass becomes a temporary town with bakers, barbers, restaurants and souvenir shops all built specially for the event.

Where is yak polo played?

Well, the people of the very high valleys also wanted to have their own polo teams. But as the horses struggled to cope with the altitude they used their yaks to play each other instead.

Yak polo is played at annual summer festivals such as the Broghil festival in Pakistan and the Wakhan festival in Afghanistan. Yak polo has also become popular in Mongolia. Perhaps there will be a world cup one day…

Are yak polo festivals easy to reach?

Not really. The Wakhan festival takes place near Sarhad, which is four days travel from the nearest international airport. Broghil festival is not much easier to reach.

Introducing yak polo in central Mongolia Adventure sports you've never heard of Wikipedia CC image by Carl Whetham

However, the journey to either will take you through the remote valleys of the Hindu Kush. You’ll experience some of the world’s most incredible mountain scenery inhabited by incredibly hospitable people.

It’s well worth visiting for Himalaya trekking holidays in this part of the Himalayas. Best of all, you’ll see very few other tourists. Watching sport has never been so exciting!

Adventure sports you’ve never heard of

We like the idea of a series of articles about adventure sports you’ve never heard of. So in the comments let us know the weirdest and most wonderful adventure sports you’ve witnessed and if we like the sound of it we’ll write an article about it.

It’s safe to say we found introducing yak polo pretty interesting. If you fancy trying adventure sports you’ve never heard of then check out our action sport holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.

Afghanistan, Asia, Broghil, Himalayas, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sarhad
Horse Riding
Polo, Yak
Travel Articles

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