National Geographic : 1973 Nov
Fierce centaurs, horses and men move as one in buz kashi. Anyone can play, though only professionals bear the proud title chopendoz and the right to wear a gray fleece cap trimmed with wolf or fox fur. Each draws a salary from a bey who breeds and trains the mounts and sponsors the weekly win tertime games. A chopendoz (left) jerks the headless 80-pound carcass filled with wet sand into the most protected position, under his thigh. His horse will ram, rear, and feint to help him keep it. In a classic maneuver a chal lenger balances on one stirrup and swings across his saddle to snatch the prize with two hands (lower left). A ferocious tug-of-war at full gallop determines the winner of a skin so tattered it drags on the ground (upper right). Soon a fresh carcass replaces it, and then another, in the punishing four-hour joust. Horses jam together as one rider swings down to claim a fallen trophy (right). Steeds are trained to step on the calf until their masters can reach it. At game's end a camel, a coat, or perhaps a gold coin, like this 68-year-old tilla (above) from Bukhara, goes to the best player. But a winning chopen doz finds his real reward in the respect of his countrymen.