Forget baseball, football, and basketball. These weird, wacky, and strange sports offer a level of entertainment that traditional sports and mainstream sporting events can’t. From wife carrying to cheese rolling to real-life reenactments of Quidditch from the Harry Potter series – there are so many crazy, weird, and just plain strange sports out there.
So, what are the strangest sports in the world? Keep scrolling to learn more about some of the world’s weirdest sports.
1. Lawn Mower Racing
This racing sport takes it off the road. Lawnmower racing is a real motorsport where people race modified lawnmowers! Lawnmowers keep their original engines but have blades removed for safety.
The Twelve Mile 500 is a lawnmower race in Twelve Mile, Ind., held every Fourth of July since 1963. The 15-mile, 60-lap course allows a maximum of 33 drivers per race. Each participating team includes a driver, two pit crew members, and a lap judge. Lawnmowers must reach speeds of 30 miles per hour to qualify.
Lawnmower races are also held in North Carolina, Missouri, and New Mexico, as well as Australia and the U.K. – the British Lawn Mower Racing Association was formed in 1973!
2. Wife Carrying
In the small town on Sonkajärvi in Finland, male competitors race through an obstacle course while carrying their wives on their backs. The tradition of wife-carrying stems from the 19th-century legend of Ronkainen the Robber, a Finnish Robinhood type who lived in the forest and ran with a band of thieves. According to one story, Ronkainen the Robber and his men stole food and women from neighboring villages by carrying them on their shoulders as they ran away.
The Wife Carrying World Championships have been held annually in Finland since 1992, where the winner receives the equivalent of his wife’s weight in beer. Today, wife-carrying contests are held all around the world in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Germany, India, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
3. Chess Boxing
It’s exactly what it sounds like: chess (the board game) and boxing (the physical sport). This unusual sport first appeared in a 1992 comic book illustrated by French artist Enki Bilal. The comic book inspired Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh to perform a real-life version of chess boxing in 2003 in Amsterdam, and it’s been played ever since.
In chess boxing, two opponents duke it out in 11 alternating rounds: six of chess and five of boxing. Opponents can win with a checkmate on the board or a knockout in the ring.
4. Cheese Rolling
People race each other down a hill for cheese on one day each spring in Gloucestershire, England. Gloucestershire has hosted the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake (which means festival) since 1826.
Participants enter the 200-yard race at their own risk and chase wheels of artisanal double Gloucester cheese, a type of buttery cheese made locally, down a hill. Wheels of cheese weigh about eight pounds each and get a one-second head start down the hill. Participants follow, reaching top speeds of 70 mph! The first to reach the finish line gets to keep the wheel of Gloucester cheese as their prize.
The annual cheese roll used fake wheels of cheese, so the local cheesemaker wouldn’t be held legally responsible for injuries, which are quite common. They switched back to real cheese in 2014.
Cheese rolling is no longer officially supported because crowds have gotten so large. The event routinely attracts international spectators and competitors, and attendance is in the thousands! However, the race has continued on its own momentum.
5. Bubble Soccer
In bubble soccer, players squeeze their heads and upper bodies inside giant inflatable bubbles. Bubble soccer first appeared in Norway in 2011. A match is played by two teams of no more than five, and both sides must have at least one female on the field at all times.
6. Bog Snorkeling
Swimmers from around the globe gather in the small town of Llanwrtyd, Wales, to participate in the World Bog Snorkeling Championships. Competitors must wear snorkels and flippers as they swim two lengths of a 60-yard trench cut through a peat bog. Bog snorkelers must swim as quickly as they can without using any traditional swimming strokes.
7. Extreme Ironing
Phil Shaw created extreme ironing in 1997 when faced with a pile of laundry he didn’t want to do. He thought he would rather be rock climbing, so he took his ironing board outside. After that, he and his roommate Paul Cartwright ironed while rock climbing, skiing in the French Alps, and at the tops of trees in Germany’s Black Forest.
And so, extreme ironing and the Extreme Ironing Bureau was born! Today, ironists compete in remote, dangerous locations underwater, on top of mountains, in moving vehicles, while skiing or snowboarding, on top of statues, and in the middle of traffic!
8. Single Bamboo Drift Racing
In this popular sport in Southwest China’s Guizhou province, competitors stand on a single 20-foot-long bamboo pole and use a thin bamboo stick as an oar. Single bamboo drift racing wasn’t always a sport – it began as a mode of transportation in China. Today, bamboo poles have been replaced with more durable fiberglass.
9. Toe Wrestling
You’ve heard about arm wrestling, but what about toe wrestling? In this weird sport, two opponents lock feet and attempt to pin each other down. Like so many of the weird and wacky sports on this list, toe wrestling originated in the U.K. too!
Four drinking buddies created the game at a pub in 1974 while commiserating about the fact that the U.K. had failed to produce any world sports champions. But they found a loophole: If a new sport was created that no one else knew about, they could finally have a champion! One of the four people who founded the sport, Mick Dawson, became the first world champion toe wrestler.
World Toe Wrestling Championships have been held annually ever since!
10. Sheep Counting
Say hello to your new favorite non-contact sport! The first sheep counting competition was held in the Australian Outback in 2002. Approximately 400 sheep dashed past 10 competitors who tried to count them as accurately as possible. The contestant whose estimate is closest to the actual number of sheep wins!
11. Underwater Boxing
It’s no secret that professional boxers often incorporate underwater training into their fitness routine to last longer in the ring. If Muhammad Ali trained underwater, it has to work!
Having to hold your breath builds stamina and lung strength, and the water resistance slows movement and allows you to focus on form.
So, it’s no surprise underwater boxing is a thing. The rules are just like those of regular boxing, except boxers hold their breath for one minute at a time for three rounds and come up for air in between rounds.
Logrolling involves two opponents, each standing on one end of a free-floating log, who try to knock each other in the water by sprinting or kicking the log. This unique sport originated during the logging era in the late 1800s when timber grew in remote regions with few roadways. Rivers offered a natural method of transportation that could quickly get logs to sawmill towns.
However, thousands of logs were being transported downstream, which led to frequent jams. Men were hired to prevent jams and had to step across the floating logs. They had to learn how to roll the logs to stay out of the water!
Naturally, it turned into a competition, and companies started sponsoring log rolling contests in the summers. The U.S. Log Rolling Open is held every June.
This fictional sport from the Harry Potter series written by J.K. Rowling is played in real life! The rules of Quidditch are based on the Harry Potter books and movies but have been adapted to fit real-world constraints, i.e., players are on foot and using one hand to ride a broomstick, as opposed to flying on one.
Real-life Quidditch was created by students at Middlebury College in Vermont. It’s since been adopted as a collegiate sport at colleges and universities across the country.
Which of these strange sports are you most likely to try? Let us know in the comments!