The Bashkirs are a Turkic people indigenous to Bashkortostan extending on both sides of the Ural mountains, on the place where Europe meets Asia. The Bashkirs traditionally practiced agriculture, cattle-rearing and bee-keeping. The half-nomadic Bashkirs wandered either the mountains or the steppes, herding cattle. Traditionally, the most important element of Bashkir’s economy was a horse. As other peoples nomadic in the past, Bashkirs like horse rider games, particularly “Auzarysh” (taking down). This is a traditional Bashkir wrestling on horseback in which two horsemen attempt to drag the opponent down to the ground.
Two contestants on horseback maneuver with their horses in attempts to grasp the opponent by arm, neck, girdle or horse bridle – in order to take him down or force to jump down from the horse. If horse riders happen to be tightly close they are able to grab each other by torso like classic wrestlers. Whoever touches the ground by any part of the body is considered as a loser. As per traditions, the most honorable victory is when a wrestler managed to pull the opponent to his horse and place him aslant. The contest is held on a playground with the diameter 40 meters; each match is limited by ten-fifteen minutes.
Similar contests are popular among some other Turk peoples as well as other nations – all the game names mean the same – taking down: Kyrgyz calls it Oodarysh; Kazakh – Audaryspak; Armenian – Choponahakh.
In the past, the “weaker sex” also participated in the wrestling on horseback: “Bashkir girls arrange horse races competing in dragging each other down of horses; then guys join the game… Women and particularly girls, dressed up in colored jackets, also demonstrate skills in horse riding; mounted girls engage in the game and throw each other off the horses; sometimes they expose themselves to young horsemen attacking them and successfully drag the guys off the saddles as well.”
Another version of horse rider wrestling is an ancient team game of Kuk-Bure (fighting over goat’s carcass).
One more horse rider game which principally may not be held without girls is a famous horse race game “Catch up with a girl.” A horseman attempts to run a girl down and to touch her by his hat or to kiss her – he wins if he manages to do that. If the guy was unable to do that the girl in turn chases him and tries to hit him by a lash. By a tradition, a girl has 20 meters start on her opponent and a better horse.
Kurysash (or Kuresh) is a traditional wrestling of the Bashkirs similar to other Tatar belt wrestling styles. Kuryash competitions are organized during festivities and weddings. Wrestlers grasp each other by the belt or “bilbau” (girdle or sash). Traditionally, wrestlers wind bilbaus crisscross round their hands. In the past, a rope could be used instead. The goal of the sport is to raise the opponent and to throw him on his back remaining standing or being on top. Winners were usually awarded by a “hebe” – a big piece of veal. Traditionally, women also competed in Kuryash for a prize. Researcher N.V. Bikbulatov writes: “You could see wrestling women in Kurgan and Chelyabinsk regions (Ural) in the first decade of the 20th century”. Currently, Bashkir girls again actively practice Kuryash participating in tournaments and championships.