7 Disturbingly Weird and Unusual Sports Around the World

chess boxing
Chess Boxing by WCBO licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Throughout the ages, many sports have been created that form a staple in modern day society. Football (both American and Soccer), Tennis, Basketball, Golf, Cricket – the list goes on. Then there are the not so well known, more unusual sports around the world that I feel need a special mention here!

From Ferret legging to Ostrich racing, here is my top 7 unusual sports around the world that deserve a special mention for thinking outside the box – for better or for worse 🙂

black footed ferrets
Black Footed Ferrets by skeeze licensed under CC0 Public Domain

1. Ferret-legging – England. Heading up the list of unusual sports around the world is Ferret legging. Not weird at all. I mean what sounds more plausible and enjoyable than placing two 18″ ferrets down one’s pants, then keeping them in there as long as you possibly can?

Ferret-legging has unknown origins, but made a comeback in the 1970’s, predominantly in Yorkshire, England. There aren’t many rules to it. The “competitor” needs to be sober and not on drugs. Oh, and he is not allowed to wear underwear beneath his pants. As for the Ferret, he/she cannot be sedated, and is required to have a full set of teeth that haven’t been manipulated in any way. Consider the fact that Ferrets have “claws like hypodermic needles and teeth like number 16 carpet tacks” [as described by Reg Mellor, former champion], and you can see how this can be, well, uncomfortable.

As for the records. The first record we have documented is 40 seconds in 1972. To me that’s more than long enough to have a couple of ferrets nibbling my bits. The current record is held by Frank Bartlett in 2010 – that managed to house these little critters for a staggering 5 hours and 30 minutes!

Extreme Ironing by nick@ licensed under CC BY 2.0

2.  Extreme Ironing – England. Another nail biting sport brought to you from the shores of England! Dare I mention I am originally from England? 😳 Extreme Ironing, or EI, originated from Leicester, England. Legend has it, Phil Shaw in 1997, started this exciting sport after a long hard days work at a knitwear factory. He had chores to do that night, including a laundry basket or 2 of ironing, but much preferred the idea of rock climbing – so he combined the two and EI was born!

The sport quickly recruited a huge following, spreading into international waters. In fact, the first Extreme Ironing World Championship was held in mid-September 2002, in Valley, Bavaria (Germany). Competitors came from countries including England, Germany, Austria, Australia and Croatia. The events were broken down into 5 categories:

  • Urban – Competitors ironed in, on top of, or around a broken down car.
  • Water – Participants would hop in a canoe, on a surfboard, or even a rubber ring and set sail on a fast moving river. And of course, iron at the same time!
  • Forest – Climb the biggest tree you could find, and you guessed it, iron at the top.
  • Rocky – Contestants were presented the challenge of climbing a custom made rock wall, while ironing a t-shirt of course.
  • Freestyle – The most extreme section of all. Pretty much anything goes and limited only by imagination, and perhaps safety standards.

Some of the more memorable EI moments include simultaneous underwater ironing, ironing on a motorway (freeway) and ironing while competing in a half marathon! Definitely one of the top unusual sports around the world!

unusual sports quidditch
Muggle Quidditch game in Vancouver by Anton Bielousov licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

3.  Quidditch – Vermont, USA. Queue Harry Potter music and magical broomsticks! No but really, Quidditch is a real sport, there’s even a world championship. For those not familiar with either Harry Potter or Quidditch – let me paint a picture. 2 teams, 7 players per team, each riding a broomstick. And when I say “riding”, I mean holding it under their private area as broomsticks don’t really magically fly.

Hooked already? Well there are 4 positions you can aspire to command in:

  • Chasers – pass the “Quaffle” (a slightly deflated volleyball) to other chasers who try to score points by throwing said Quaffle into one of 3 hoops on the opposing team’s side. 3 Chasers Per team
  • Beaters – try to hit Chasers with Bludgers. A Bludger is another type of ball in play – a slightly deflated dodge-ball. If a Beater hits a Chaser carrying the Quaffle, the Chaser must relinquish the Quaffle, remove their broomstick from their undercarriage, and touch their own hoops before rejoining play. 2 Beaters per team.
  • Keepers – like a soccer goal keeper. Keepers’ job is to keep the Quaffle from entering any of the 3 rings. He (or she) is immune to Bludgers. 1 Keeper per team.
  • Seekers – the heroes of the game! Sometimes. They come into play typically 18 minutes after the game has started (lazy!) and try to catch another type of ball, known as the “snitch”, that’s attached to a snitch runner’s back by means of a long yellow sock. If the snitch is caught – the game is won.

To be fair, the concept behind the broomstick is that it acts as a handicap, and makes the sport a little more challenging. But it still looks rather silly 🙂

chess boxing
Chess Boxing by WCBO licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

4.  Chess Boxing – Netherlands. A true match of brains and brawn! Match your wits and strategy against your opponent in a tactical game of Chess, and if that doesn’t work, well… just beat the crap out of him in the next round!

Chess boxing originated in 2003 and was invented by Lepe Rubingh. The idea actually stemmed from a graphic novel called Froid Équateur that featured the then fictitious sport. 21 years later, Lepe breathed life into the sport and it became real.

Chess Boxing consists of 11 rounds, of which 6 are Chess and 5 are Boxing. The rounds alternate between Chess and Boxing and are timed typically at 3 minutes each. You can win by either knocking your opponent out, by checkmate, or by points decision if the full 11 rounds are exhausted.

Definitely the coolest, unusual sport around the world on this list!

poohsticks strange sports
Never Too Old For Pooh-Sticks by Glyn Baker licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

5. Poohsticks, England. It’s not what you’re thinking, I promise! Much like Chess Boxing, Poohsticks’ origins also came from a novel, of sorts. A Winnie the Pooh book entitled The House at Pooh Corner. The annual Poohsticks world championship is held on the River Thames each year, and has been going strong since 1984!

The enthralling sport of Poohsticks involves competitors dropping their stick off of the upstream side of a bride, then frantically running to the other side. Whoever’s stick shows up first, wins!! What an adrenaline rush! Quidditch is starting to look pretty legit now!

The one cool thing to mention about Poohsticks, is that it was invented by Lynn David, whose intent was to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Throughout its existence, the sport has helped raise over 30,000 pounds (about $39,000) for the RNLI. Go Poohsticks!

zorbing - unusual world sports
Zorbing by Kim licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

6.  Zorbing – Auckland, New Zealand. OK, this one is actually pretty cool so I had to include it. Picture rolling down a steep hill within a giant orb made of see-through plastic, and you have Zorbing! Zorbing can also take place on water. Given the buoyancy of such orbs, it’s possible to “water Walk” while inside one.

The idea of Zorbing was capitalized upon by Dwane van der Sluis and Andrew Akers. They formed their own company, ZORB Limited, and successfully set out to commercialize their new sport worldwide via a sort of franchising system. Zorbing is now popular in countries such as Australia, The U.S., England, Sweden, Japan and even the North Pole!

Zorbing has some pretty awesome records:

  • Longest single roll distance – 1,870 ft
  • Longest time spent inside a Zorb – 3:49:06, Oxygen?!?!
  • Highest recorded speed – 32 mph
  • Quickest 100 meter dash – 26.59 seconds

Zorbing is not without its risks. There have been reports of people passing out due to lack of air, broken bones, and even a couple of deaths. Try at your own peril!

ostrich racing
Ostrich Race Start by MyAngelG licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

7.  Ostrich Racing – Florida, U.S. Let’s face it, horse racing is kinda lame. The natural progression? Sit atop an Ostrich instead! Ostrich racing is fairly common in the U.S and Africa, and quite popular. Every March, Arizona hosts the Chandler Ostrich festival, which typically attracts around 100,000 people and has been going for almost 30 years.

Ostriches are deceptively fast. They can run up to 45 mph and handle 16 ft in a single stride. A horse would typically gallop at around 25-30 mph as a reference point. However, it is a lot harder to stay atop an Ostrich than it is a horse – have you ever seen one run? For a start, they only have 2 legs!

Safety equipment is mandatory for jockeys – whose focus is as much to stay physically connected with the Ostrich as it is to win the race. Specialized saddles and reins are forged to aid the Jockey’s chance of survival. But enough words! Let’s see it in action:

Hope you have enjoyed this list of 7 unusual sports around the world!! Please feel free to mention some more in the comments below.


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