When we think of some of the manliest men on the planet, our mind often goes to pro athletes. These blokes are often huge, fast, strong and fearless. But while the sports we watch often involve a measure of toughness and badass-itude, they pale in comparison to some international competitions you’ve probably never heard of. Like the ones on the following pages…
1. Calcio Storico: This game originated in Italy in the 16th century, but in the past 100 years, it has seen a revival. It’s kind of a combination of football, soccer and MMA. Each team is made up of 27 players and the only object is to throw the ball into a net. However, the contest often devolves into men just beating the hell out of one another, with the actual ball nowhere in site.
2. Pacu Jawi: This sport is played in South Asia, most notably in Malaysia. Competitors race cows through mud by standing on a plank behind them, grabbing their tails to make them run. As you can imagine, cows are fairly unpredictable and people can get seriously hurt in this sport.
3. Kabaddi: Kabaddi is a team sport that originated in India and is popular in South Asia. Kabaddi is played with two teams of 12 players, and each team designates a “raider.” His job is to go the opponents’ side of the court, touch as many players as he can in a single breath, and return to his side of the court. Which wouldn’t be so hard except that opponents will literally drag or tackle him to the ground to prevent him from going back to his team’s side.
4. Caber Tossing: The Caber Toss is a traditional Scottish athletic event in which large men toss a large pole called a Caber. It’s typically nearly 20 feet long and weighs about 175 pounds, so they aren’t too easy to toss. It’s not about height or distance, though: The way to score more points is to get the straightest end-over-end toss.
6. Buzkashi: The name literally translates to goat-pulling, and this sport is about as brutal as it gets. Players on horseback have the goal of putting the carcass of a goat into a goal area. Each player carries a whip and uses it to fend off opposing players, and matches can last up to seven gruelling days. It is played throughout Central Asia.
7. Sepak Takraw: Native to to Southeast Asia, Sepak Takraw transpires much like volleyball, except for the fact that players hit the ball with their feet, head and chest rather than hands. It is played around the world and is quite difficult to master. However, when you see professionals play, it’s equal parts burly and breathtaking.
8. Onbashira: This event has been taking place in Japan for well over 1,000 years. Onbashira involves transporting a pillar down a mountain to a shrine. Along the way, hundreds of men pile onto it and try to ride it all the way down. Injuries and deaths occur often, as this one of the most dangerous things you could ever do.
9. Octopush: Also known as underwater hockey, this goofy sport originated in England in 1954 and is now played in dozens of countries. Players don a mask and snorkel, grab a miniature stick and dive to the bottom of a pool. Then teams of six try to whack a puck into their opponents’ net. And not die, of course.
11. Volcano Boarding: As you might guess, this activity involves riding down volcanic slopes on a plywood or metal board. Even with protective gear, there are a ton of potential dangers, such as being hit by molten lava. That’s right, LAVA. Photos: Getty and iStock