Popular throughout much of Central Asia, buzkashi is a form of horse polo in which horseback players wrestle a goat carcass across a playing field.
A chovandoz (Buzkashi master) grooms and massages his horse before the day's match. Prized for their power, skill and lineage, buzkashi horses can sell for as much as 50,000 USD.
While the sport is slightly controlled in neighboring ex-Soviet countries, buzkashi matches in Tajikistan only require a special issue land-use permit for weekend matches.
Buzkashi matches, such as this one near Shahrinav, Tajikistan, often take place in natural amphitheatres in steep valleys or old dirt quarries.
A buzkashi player chases a rival to try steal the 'buz' mid-gallop. Experience builds up over decades and some of the best players are in their 40s.
A farmer holds the head of a goat he just sold for extended rounds of a buzkashi game in Sharinav. The goat carcass is normally prepared the day before the match.
Buzkashi referees prepare the 'buz' - goat carcass - for the next round of the game, by cutting off the head and the hooves. Typically, the goat is slaughtered the night before, beheaded and soaked in water to make it heavier. A buz can weigh up to 100 kilograms.
Blacksmiths, sellers of hats and whips, and horse-traders all flock to the matches.
A portrait of a buzkashi player and the referee/commentator. Some of the larger matches can have multiple roving referees, many of whom are well-known for their prodigious memories and wit.
Members of the audience at a buzkashi match in Kuibesh, near Korgan-teppa.
A buzkashi player holding the prized goat carcass is chased by a rival, in Tezgar Bolo, near Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan.
A buzkashi rider escapes from a rival with the prize.
Members of the audience at a buzkashi match running from horses during a scrimmage near Korgan-teppa.
Buzkashi players often lock in clusters in a struggle to pick up the goat carcass from the ground. When horses and riders fall in a dangerously tight crowd, designated runners often dash in to help break up the fray.
Too slow to jump to a retreat with the rest of the audience, an old man is lost in the dust of a horde of buzkashi horses. Near Sharinav, Tajikistan.
Popular throughout much of Central Asia, buzkashi is a form of horse polo in which horseback players wrestle a goat carcass across a playing field. Buzkashi is played more widely in Tajikistan, compared to the other ex-Soviet republics, where the sport is controlled
Buzkashi players help set up the 'goal' posts, between which the goat carcass must be dropped off.
Onlookers near the truck holding all the prizes and goat carcasses watch a buzkashi match spread uphill on a snowy day in Hissor, Tajikistan.
Between rounds, a buzkashi rider tapes up his hands to improve his grip, stave off the cold and ward off brutal whips from other players.
The hand-off of a new 'buz' (goat carcass), after the old one deteriorates on the field after repeated abuse.
Using carpets won by the horseback riders, buzkashi fans near Hissor set aside time for afternoon prayers.
A buzkashi rider relaxes with his horse between rounds.
Young buzkashi players take a break during a muddy match.
Riders battle for possession of a slippery buz in Hissor.
A buzkashi rider takes a break in the fog.
Assistants to the master 'chovandoz' exercise relief horses in the snow near a buzkashi match.
A young buzkashi player in training.