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Days later, I witness the Ulak- Tartysh final between the country’s top professional teams – Bishkek and Talas – at the stadium in the capital. It is a truly remarkable spectacle: fast, skilfull and vicious, near unbelievable levels of horsemanship are displayed, demanding enormous strength and stamina. The headless goat weighs 45 kilograms and the act of heaving it with one arm from the ground onto the saddle is a feat of Herculean strength. Hard on horsemen and beast, it is the ultimate test of equestrian ability and brutally exciting to watch.

The ancient sport, like the nomadic way of life, remains virtually unchanged through the centuries. Both have survived years of Soviet domination and even modernity itself, and have come to symbolise Kyrgyzstan – in all its muttony glory.

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The article ‘Nomadic Kyrgyzstan’ was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.

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