The Kazakh game of kyz kuu

In the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan there is a local sport (no, not the running of the Jews) which is actually quite interesting. The game combines elements of romance and Kazakh tradition. Horses have long been an essential part of the nomadic people’s identity, so many of their activities involve horses. But they also have a history, like basically all other people, of raiding their enemies. During these raids the men would capture and take women, often on horseback. This game is a play upon that history. The best description of the game of kyz kuu (Girl chasing) is,

This is essentially kiss chase on horseback. A woman sets off on a horse at a gallop. After a small delay, a group of men, also on horseback gallop after her. The aim of the game is to catch the girl and kiss her while both are still at full gallop. Any man that does not manage to catch and kiss the girl is then whipped by her all the way back to the starting line. I know you think I’m making this up … but I’m not. The game has its origins in the nomadic traditions of raiding another party of nomads and stealing their women.”

So you have to chase a woman, who has a speed advantage, on horseback, catch her, and kiss her, while maintaining full gallop. I should hope for the man’s sake it is a pretty girl. Because if he fails to catch and kiss her, she gets to whip him all the way back to the starting line. This certainly beats any American romantic tradition I can think of. Playing kyz kuu would be a much better way for new couples, or even potential couples, to spend their Valentine’s Day rather than buying crap.