Some of the World’s Most Unique Sports

A man and woman skiing with their dog

Some popular sports in the United States like baseball and basketball have a large contingent of fans in other countries. Many of those nations also have their own unique sports, some of which have interesting origins.

Fierljeppen – Netherlands

Fierljeppen is a Frisian word that translates to “far leaping.” This Dutch sport is like pole vaulting but with the added challenge of crossing over a canal., The sport originated among farmers in the swampy areas of Friesland in the Netherlands who started using poles to navigate the region’s wetlands.

While improved infrastructure in the form of roads and bridges diminished the need for fierljeppen, it became a competitive sport in 1975. To participate, competitors sprint towards a canal, grabbing a large pole that they stick into the bottom of the body of water. Athletes then climb the pole and attempt to land farther on the other side than their competitors. 

Arnis – Philippines 

Arnis was declared the national sport of the Philippines in 2009. Also known as “eskrima” or “kali,” arnis is a martial art where fighters focus on weapon-based sparring with knives, sticks, blades, and improvised implements. 

The sport was developed before the arrival of Europeans in the Philippines. However, because the majority of its practitioners were illiterate, there is no written record of when the sport began. 

Biribol – Brazil 

Developed in the 1960s, Biribol is Brazil’s only native team sport. It’s a close cousin of aquatic volleyball, with a few key exceptions. Two opposing teams of two play the game in a small swimming pool divided by a net. They use a ball slightly smaller than one used in water polo, which they can touch with any part of their body.

Unlike volleyball, players cannot break the plane of the net either under or over, and members on the opposing team can block a set from the opposing team. 

Gilli Danda – India 

If you’re familiar with cricket, gilli danda might look similar. Developed over 2,500 years ago in India, this bat-and-ball game involves two teams that can have as many as 100 players on the field.  One player bats, while the opposing team is on the field. After hitting the ball (the “gilli”), the batter attempts to touch a predetermined point outside the batter’s circle--like running “home” in baseball. 

 Although it’s common to see gilli danda played in rural areas across the Indian subcontinent, the sport also has a following across Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.

Skijoring - Norway

A popular Norwegian sport is skijoring in which skiers are pulled down a snowy course by a horse, dog or motor vehicle. The person who completes the course in the fastest time wins. The name of the sport comes from the Norwegian word skikjøring meaning “ski driving.”  Skijoring has also become popular in the United States and Canada where several competitions are held.

Laamb en Wolof – Senegal 

Laamb en Wolof is a traditional style of wrestling that’s popular in Senegal. The sport includes elements of boxing and allows fighters to throw punches. It also incorporates physical, spiritual, and folkloric elements of Senegalese culture.

Historically, the winner of these wrestling bouts was declared the champion of the village. In recent years, Laamb en Wolof has experienced a surge in popularity, and the winners are now considered national celebrities.

Learn More:
25 Unique Sports from Around the World