Chovqan, a traditional Karabakh horse-riding game in the Republic of Azerbaijan
Inscribed in 2013 (8.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding
Chovqan is a traditional horse-riding game played on a flat, grassy field by two competing teams of players mounted on Karabakh horses. Each team has five riders, with two fullbacks and three forwards. The game starts at the centre of the field and players use wooden mallets to try to drive a small leather or wooden ball into their opponents’ goal. The game is interspersed with instrumental folk music called janghi. Chovqan players and trainers are all local male farmers and skilled riders. They traditionally wear large astrakhan hats, long tight-fitting coats with a high waist, and special trousers, socks and shoes. People of all ages come to watch this traditional game and to support their teams. Chovqan strengthens feelings of identity rooted in nomadic culture and linked to the perception of the horse as an integral part of everyday life. The specific rules, skills and techniques of Chovqan are transmitted from experienced players to beginners through collective training. The practice and transmission of Chovqan have weakened, however, due to a loss of interest among the youth, combined with urbanization and migration, leading to a shortage of players, trainers and Karabakh horses.