Nomadic Culture

Kyrgyzstan has rich nomadic heritage and traditions that have been woven into the identity of the Kyrgyz people. During summer months, many families continue to graze their herds in mountain meadows, called jailoos, preserving old customs and ways of nomadic life. Everywhere in Kyrgyzstan, there are signs of the vibrant ancestry that still influence the lives of the Kyrgyz people. Sports and other types of competitions were hallmarks of Kyrgyz nomadic life. Sports were always considered the key to healthy living that cultivated an inner spiritualism. Every man had to possess athletic prowess to compete in contests of strength, agility, and resilience, central to the definition of Kyrgyz manhood. In nomadic tradition, all competitions took place on horseback where the rider and horse formed an integral whole. The most popular Kyrgyz equestrian games are still observed today through both formal and informal competitive events. Horsemanship dominates all competitions, including At Chabysh (horse racing at 20-30 kilometers per hour over long distances) and Jorgo Salysh (horse racing for shorter distances). No less thrilling is the battle of horsemen called Oodarysh, as well as the collective struggle of two teams vying for possession of an animal carcass called Ulak Tartysh or Kok Boru.