There’s a reason dads yell at little league umpires: competition just tickles that primal part of the brain. Something about watching a battle of wills that ends with a winner and a loser can get even the tamest among us to paint our faces and scream at people who don’t deserve it.
And because we just flat-out love watching individuals and teams duke it out to earn a victory, humanity has concocted some really insane competitions to fulfill that thirst. You won’t see these crazy games in primetime, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as captivating as any esteemed heavyweight contest…
1. Chess Boxing (The Netherlands): Boxers bash each other’s faces for five 3-minute rounds, but in between those brief bouts, they break a mental sweat with an ongoing chess game. You can win by knockout or checkmate.
The Boxing Tribune
2. Shin Kicking (England): Thousands gather for this competition, sometimes described as a martial art, and watch contestants in white coats kick each others’ shins until one of them succumbs to pain.
3. Air Guitar Contest (Finland): Since 1996, contestants have cranked out wicked air guitar solos with crowd-captivating enthusiasm. These rockers jam to a song of their choosing in round one, then a song of the judge’s choosing in round two.
4. Battle of the Oranges (Italy): In the town of Ivrea, participants split into two teams and then spend the day smashing each other with about 500,000 oranges. It’s a citrusy tradition that dates back to the 12th century.
5. Cheese Rolling (England): An old tradition, blokes chase a cheese wheel down a steep hill, which leads to a lot of people falling, twisting ankles, and colliding into each other. The person who catches the cheese wins. Their prize? The cheese.
Cots World Trekker
6. Bo-Taoshi (Japan): The game is simple. Each team has a pole. Each team tries to topple the other team’s pole. “Ninjas” scale said poles and try to keep them steady. Chaos ensues. This sport is played mostly by schoolchildren.
7. Baby Jumping (Spain): Castrillo de Murcia residents gather annually for “The Devil’s Jump,” where men dressed as devils leap over babies to cleanse them of original sin. That’s a long jump over the mattress!
8. Vinkensport (Belgium): “Finch Sitting” pits competitors head to head in an effort to coax male finches (kept in those boxes) to make certain sounds. Winning finches typically make hundreds of calls in the contest’s one-hour limit.
9. Bossaball (Spain): Add a trampoline to any sport and it instantly becomes, like, ten times more awesome. Bossaball, which is volleyball on a trampoline, is proof. The first team to score 25 wins, and though flips are encouraged, they don’t earn you more points.
10. Car Curling (Russia): They’ve given us art, literature, and vodka. Now, the Russians have given us this magnificent twist on the beloved Winter Olympic game. The rules are simple: push a car on ice and get it to stop on a target.
11. Wife-carrying (Finland): For hundreds of years, Finnish men have slung their wives (or any woman, actually) over their backs and competed in an obstacle-laden footrace. The winners earn the wife’s weight in beer.
12. Bog Snorkeling (Whales): Equipped with flippers and a snorkel, swimmers brave water-filled trenches cut through a peat bog and, without using conventional swimming strokes, fight through decaying plant muck. The fastest swimmer wins.
13. Worm Charming (England): Kids and adults alike dig up earthworms in this wild competition. In the World Worm Charming Championship of 2009, 10-year-old Sophie Smith, below, set records when she snagged 567 worms from a 9 meter square in 30 minutes!
14. Ultimate TASER Ball (United States): Legal and medical ramifications put a stop to this electrifying sport, in which teams tried to put a ball into a goal without being stopped…by opponents with TASERs.
15. Tuna Throwing (Australia): Folks gather annually at the Tunarama Festival in Port Lincoln to hurl rubber tuna fish really far. Aussie hammer thrower Sean Carlin holds the record toss distance at just over 122 feet.
16. Ski Bobbing (Austria): First created as a way to navigate the treacherous Alps, the ski bike is, well, a bike frame on skis. Today, thrill seekers and easy-going kids can shred some snow with these!
17. Headstand Chugging (Czech Republic): As part of “Wonder Week,” competitors rebuke the advice of medical professionals everywhere and chug beer while doing a handstand. Everyone watching is the winner.
18. Chili Pepper Eating Contest (United States): A pretty self-explanatory competition, contestants in North Carolina eat increasingly hotter peppers and hot sauces until they can’t stand the heat. Finalists must finish an orange habanero.
19. World Sauna Competition (Finland): Competitors gathered in a 210-degree sauna and just roasted for as long as they could stand it. Last man or woman standing won. Unfortunately, organizers canceled the competition after someone died in 2010.
20. Pig Feet Bobbing (United States): Born as a spoof of Atlanta’s ’96 Summer Olympics, the annual Redneck Games — hosted in Georgia — feature this southern take on bobbing for apples. The winner gets a pig foot.
21. Hurling (Ireland): With origins over 4,000 years old, this sport features teams of 15 violently clashing to send a cork-based ball into a goal. Because injuries piled up in almost every match, officials mandated helmets in 2010.
Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
22. Crab Racing (Jamaica): Watching crabs race might seem like watching paint dry, but rest assured, people go nuts to see these little fellas go claw to claw on the track.
23. Buzkashi (Afghanistan): The country’s national sport, this game played on horseback is exactly like soccer. Except, instead of a soccer ball, you toss around a goat carcass.
24. Ferret-Legging (England): Animal welfare groups have pretty much driven this competition, which consisted of men sticking sharp-clawed weasels in their pants and trying to withstand the pain because why not, out of existence.
Competition is an animal instinct, and that’s why some of the greatest competitors on the planet hail from the Animal Kingdom. In 1978, skating rink owners Chuck and Lou Ann trained a squirrel named Twiggy to water ski — as a joke. A year later, a boat show organizer booked the squirrel for a gig. Crowds loved him.
Years later, Twiggy #4 — the great-grandson of the original squirrel trained to water ski in a bathtub — still captivated audiences. He even made appearances in the hit films Dodgeball and Anchorman. But he had competition…
2. Queenie the Water Skiing Elephant: Billed as the world’s only water skiing elephant, the Asian giant wowed audiences at county fairs and circuses in the 1950s and ’60s! “She thoroughly loved skiing,” her owner said.
3. Soaring Cindy Jumps: Owners Kathy Conroy and Kate Long of Miami, Florida, started training the greyhound’s strength, agility, and leaping skills just months after her birth. Soon, she had serious skills — but just how serious?
Well in August of 2003, at just three years old, she attempted to break the Guinness World Record for highest jump by a dog, which stood at 63 inches. She jumped an incredible 66 inches…then jumped 68 inches three years later!
4. Triton the Lion: At the Johannesburg Zoo, spectators often gathered around to watch trainers toss a soccer ball into the lion den. There, an 11-year-old white lion named Triton waited to show the crowd his skills.
With the ball in his enclosure, Triton turns into a playful kitten chasing down a ball of yarn. He earned himself the nickname Lion-el Messi because let’s face it, he definitely had the dribbling abilities to play forward for FC Barcelona.
Barcroft TV / YouTube
According to trainers at the zoo, Triton’s dedication to soccer trumped any need for friends. He always preferred playing with his ball over spending time with the 7 female lions in his enclosure!
5. Pisco the surfing alpaca: Peruvian surfer Domingo Pianezzi trained Pisco the alpaca to surf. Why? Well, “when I was at a competition in Australia,” he said, “I saw people surfing with kangaroos and koalas.” This made the champion surfer a bit jealous.
“So,” he continued, “I thought that, as a Peruvian, it would be interesting to surf with a unique animal that represents Peru” — and no animal symbolized his country better than this furball. Domingo trained other surfing partners, too…
Domingo taught children to surf and shredded waves in worldwide competitions, but he also made time to teach a dog, a parrot, a hamster, and a cat to surf, too! None of his other partners, though, were quite as skilled as Pisco!
6. Rosie the Ribbiter: In 1981, this jumping frog shattered the Guinness World Record for frog long jumping, nailing a 21-foot leap. Yep, she jumped about as far as a two-story building is tall.
7. Happie the Skateboarding Goat: In March 2012, this Nigerian dwarf cross goat rode her skateboard for 25 seconds straight, covering 118 feet before crashing into a parking barrier. This set the world record for “Farthest Distance Skateboarding by a Goat!”
“She figured out how to get on [the skateboard] and then I was just like, ‘Whoa, this is amazing,’” Happie’s owner Melody Cooke said. So the 18-year-old trained her goat to ride the pavement by using treats.
8. Dog-Riding Monkeys: No NFL halftime show will ever amount to the magic of monkeys riding dogs. At times, these mysterious characters captivate crowds more than the games themselves…
In 2015, for instance, during a horrendously boring Monday Night Football game between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals, dog-riding monkeys burst on to the field at halftime and herded goats. For the first time that night, the crowd went wild.
9. Norman the Scooter-Riding Dog: After this Briard learned to sit while waiting in the airport, his owner knew he was smart — so she trained him to ride a scooter. In 2013, he set the record “the fastest 30 meters on a scooter by a dog.” A year later, he set another…
Yup, in 2014, Norman broke the record for “fastest 30 meters on a bicycle by a dog.” “Norman basically thought he was one of the kids,” his owner Karen said. “Whatever they did, he wanted to try.” He loved both the scooter and the bike.
In 2017, however, the lovable canine faced a new challenge: cancer. But after raising $23,000 for treatment through GoFundMe, the unbelievable dog conquered that obstacle, too! By the end of the year, he was on the mend.