Traditional Horse Games

Traditional Horse Games will take place in Songkul lake on 15 july 2019. We invite everyone to be witness real nomad games. Here at the beatiful shore of Songkul lake you will have chance to watch the Real Nomad Games. It is organized by local communities to show our cultural heritage. The programm consist of traditional horse games like Kok-boru, horse racing, Kyrgyz wrestling, recitation of The Epic of Manas and other games.


Kok-Boru is the highlight of any traditional sporting event in Central Asia. Two teams of eight horsemen fight for possession of a dead sheep or goat, which they then maneuver into raised goals to earn points. Gameplay is exciting and often violent, which makes it popular across the region. Visitors can find games both at large sporting events and out in the mountains, especially around holidays such as Nooruz. Kok-boru builds teamwork among players and toughens both men and horses, which would have been necessary for hunting and war.

The game starts with the teams lining up at the edge of the field. They then approach the middle of the field, where the referee has places the sheep or goat on the ground. Players must then fight to grab the sheep off the ground and carry it to their team’s goal, while the other team tries to gain possession of the sheep by force. With eight riders from each team on the field at any time, this means that there is plenty of action, and spectators often cheer loudly for their favorite teams.

Kok-boru matches drew the largest crowds at the 2016 World Nomad Games, with the final, between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, filling the Hippodrome in Cholpon-Ata so that it was overflowing. Even though the team of cowboys competing from America had never played a match before.

Er enish

Er enish is a game where a horseman tries to pull his opponent from his horse so he touches the ground. The riders are shirtless, and wear special belts and scarves on their heads. When the referee calls the beginning of the match, the opponents grab each other with the aim of pulling the other from his horse. Winning requires not only strength, but also dexterity and endurance from the rider and the horse. These are valuable skills for men and horses, and so er enish competitions were valuable ways of helping men hone their abilities.

The Epic of Manas

The Epic of Manas is perhaps the most famous part of Kyrgyz culture, and is (arguably) the longest epic poem in the world. At 20 times longer than the Odyssey, this epic tells the life of Manas, an epic warrior, and his son and grandson. The original tale was passed orally from performer to performer, who were known as manaschi. The tale was written down starting in the 1800s, and the first complete version was published in the 1920s. The Epic of Manas has since been translated into many different languages, and published in the Soviet Union and abroad.

The poem starts with Manas, a warrior reputedly born in Talas Region. His efforts to unite warring tribes and create a homeland for his people form the center of the tale. Kanykei, his wise and noble wife from Samarkand, and Bakai, his counsellor, are also main parts of the tale. The second and third parts of the tale follow Semetei, his son, and Seitek, his grandson, in their battles.

There is a mausoleum in Talas that supposedly holds the remains of Manas. During renovations in 1969, the skeleton of a man was found inside, though the inscription on the outside says that the mausoleum is for a woman. In the Epic of Manas, his wife Kanykei and counsellor Bakai decide to bury Manas in a tomb with somebody else’s name on the front, well aware of the practice of the time of destroying all records of one’s foes. Putting another name on the tomb would ensure that it would survive Manas’s enemies.