Tuesday June 25, 2019

As Featured In The New Edition Of Lonely Planet Mongolia

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Ankle Bone Shooting


Ankle Bone Shooting – or Shagai as it is known in Mongolian – is an ancient game played throughout Mongolia and Central Asia. Shagai refers to the astragalus of the ankle of a sheep or goat. The bones are collected and used for traditional games and fortunetelling throughout Central Asia, and games involving the ankle bones may also be referred to by the name of the bones. They may be painted bright colors. Such bones have been used throughout history, and are thought to be the first forms of dice. In English language, shagai may be referred to as “ankle bones", and playing with shagai is sometimes called ankle bone shooting. These bones are oblong shaped but have different appearances depending upon which side they land when thrown.

Shagai games are especially popular during the Mongolian summer holiday of Naadam. In shagai dice, the rolled shagai generally land on one of four sides: horse, camel, sheep or goat. A fifth side, cow, is possible on uneven ground. Mongolians still exchange shagai today as tokens of friendship. The shagai may be kept in a little pouch, and can be found on sale in many stories in Ulaanbaatar.

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