Nalati Grassland hosts Kazak wintry sports | Updated: 2023-12-25 10:53
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Kazak riders perform diaoyang on the Nalati Grassland in Xinyuan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo by Wang Jing/China Daily]

Ice and snow soar beneath the galloping hoofs, as riders clad in traditional Kazak costumes race across the Nalati Grassland in Xinyuan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, putting on display an epic song of wintry majesty.

They are performing diaoyang, or snatching the sheep, a traditional sport of the Kazak ethnic group. At the command of the host, two teams of riders dash off. The riders who have fast horses and good skills quickly grab a headless sheep and either tuck it under the saddle or carry it on their horses, while other participants chase and attempt to snatch the sheep. Through repeated struggles, the team that finally places the sheep at the designated location is declared the winner.

The origin of the sport can be traced back to their way of life. The Kazak people used to be nomads living on the vast grasslands, often having to fight against harsh weather and fierce predators while relocating their livestock every year. Skilled diaoyang participants are often expert herders who can search for lost animals in blizzards and lift heavy sheep onto their horses, carrying them back to the herd. These exceptional riders earned the title of "eagle of the grassland".

Li Hezi contributed to this story.

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