Herri Kirolak: Traditional Basque Sports

Related Links: Pilota | Soccer

In the Basque country today modern sport is actively engaged in; there are teams and leagues for soccer, basketball, swimming, etc.  This page, however, focuses on traditional Basque sports because they are both distinctive and are what most spectators at a Basque-American event are likely to see. 

With the notable exception of pilota (Basque handball), most traditional Basque sports originated as forms of work that were turned into contests.  Based in an agrarian culture, the weight-lifting and wood chopping, for example, were everyday work tasks that competitive Basques converted into matches. 


Aizkora proba (wood chopping)

This wood chopping competition has its roots in the work of Basque charcoal makers. The aizkolari stands on the log as he/she chops.


Gizon probak (dragging games)

Individually or in teams a heavy weight, usually a stone, is dragged across a determined distance.

There are also stone dragging competitions with horses, oxen and donkeys.


Gizon probak (dragging games)

Here is a team competition:


Harri jasotzea (stone lifting)

The four types of stone most frequently used are rectangular, cylindrical, spherical and square. The stones are traditionally made of granite, their weight normally ranging from 100 kg to 212 kg.


Harri zulaketa (stone boring)

This competition is rooted in the work of quarrymen. Teams of three alternate in punching a hole and drilling into a rock they stand upon.


Ingude altxatzea (anvil lifting)

An iron anvil weighing 18 kilograms is lifted 30 cm above the competitor's head as many times as possible within a set time.


Lasto altxatzea (bale lifting)

Using a pulley and rope the lifter must raise a 45 kilogram bale as many times as possible in a two minte period.


Lasto botatzea (bale tossing)

A hay bale is tossed with a pitchfork over a bar set at 7 meters for men and 5meters for women.


Lokotx biltzea (cob gathering)

Corn cobs are gathered in a race. The course can be set at 50, 75, or 100 meters.


Ontzi eramatea (churn carrying)

Similar to the txinga competition, participants carry two milk can weighing 41 kilograms each as far as possible.


Orga jokoa (cart game)

Competitors lift an ox cart weighing 360 kilograms at least 40 centimeters off the ground. The cart is pivoted to the ground and participants rotate it as many times as possible.


Sega jokoa (scything)

Competitors (segalariak) either cut the most grass in a given space of time (usually one hour) or they are each given plots of grass of the same size and the competition is to see who can scythe theirs the fastest.

Sokatira (tug-of-war)

Usually two teams of eight compete to drag the other team over a line. there are free competitions and structured ones with weight categories.


Trontza (sawing)

This sawing competition is in teams of four. Two stabilize the horizontally place log while the other two saw.


Txinga eramatea (weight carrying)

With a weight in each hand, participants must walk as many courses of 28 meters as possible without putting the weights down. For men, each txinga weighs 50 kilos.


Zaku eramatea (sack carrying)

participants usually compete in teams of three in a relay running a course with a heavy sack on their shoulders.


Source: Basque Rural Sports Wikipedia



These sports test not only speed and skill but endurance as well.  Then there were also less strenuous contests including the Basque version of bowling.  Below are some of these varied Basque traditional sports.




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