Finland mosquito-killing Every year in the town of
Pelkosenniemi, up to 40 brave
contestants attempt to purge the swarms
of mosquitoes that plague the area by swatting as many as possible in five minutes using only their hands. Competitors bare their chests, arms
and legs to lure the prey, but are hampered by the
body heat of the spectators which also draws the
mosquitoes. The youngest ever winner was Harri Pellonpaa aged 17 with a record 21 swats in 1995.
Finland wife-carrying Not to be outdone by the mosquito-swatters, the town of Sonkajarvi invites contestants to carry wives across a 253.5 metre track of sand, grass and asphalt, and a water obstacle. This all dates back to when stealing women from neighbouring villages was still common practice. The wife today need not be your own, but she must wear a crash helmet in case you drop her (which incurs a 15-second time penalty). The prize is a loaf of rye bread, a statuette and the woman's weight in beer.
France melon-seed spitting Every August in Le Frechou in Gascony around 50 competitors line up for this traditional country contest. Entrants chew the seeds to get them to just the right consistency before each of their allotted three spits. Serious contenders, such as world-record-holder Bernard Ricard, use the "frisbee technique" to make the seed glide distances of over 30ft. A campaign to have melon-seed spitting included in the 2004 Olympics is currently being planned.
US hot-dog eating After 80 years' supremacy, Americans were dismayed in 1996 when 5ft 6in Hirofumi Nakajima of Japan beat reigning native champion 6ft 7in Ed Krachie. Nakajima has now successfully defended his title two years in a row, setting a new record of 241/2 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes. The contest has been held at Nathan's restaurant on Coney Island since 1916 on every Fourth of July - except 1971 when it was cancelled as a protest against civil unrest and free love.
US cow-pat throwing This old redneck contest is held every April in the town of Beaver, Oklahoma, as part of the Cimarron Territory Celebration Festival. Known locally as "chips", the cow pats must be non-spherical and 100 per cent organic to comply with the rules. Competitors have recorded some impressive distances - the world record currently stands at 266ft. Sadly, however, it appears that the world hog-calling championships, a feature of the Festival for over a decade, has howled its last.
Spain calcot-eating For anyone who has never been to the Catalonia region, a calcot is a type of spring onion which was discovered by a peasant in the 14th century. Anyone over the age of 18 can enter this competition, staged during the annual Calcotada Festival in Valls. Contestants have 45 minutes to eat as many Calcots dipped in sauce as they can. Each calcot has to be completely eaten or it will not count. In 1996, three-time winner Josep Garcia Milan ate a record 275.
Australia dwarf-throwing In defiance of political correctness, and its many critics, this century-old sport still survives. But the championship has apparently cleaned up its act since the early days when drunkenness was rife among both contestants and fans, and under rules laid down by the World Dwarf Throwing Authority, nobody may be thrown without prior written consent, although this has not stopped protestors in recent years threatening to blow up the contest venue in Sydney.
England gut-barging A kind of sumo-wrestling for beer-bellies, gut-bargers must dislodge opponents
from a small mat using only their stomachs. Driven underground in the last century, this
ancient British sport has enjoyed a recent
resurgence, with last year's finals staged in the
Royal Albert Hall. In an attempt to make "The
Brawl in the Hall" appear more international, Brit
Gary Biggs entered for France as The Trifle Tower and another entered for Germany as Sour Kraut.
Wales bog-snorkelling Entrants must complete two lengths of a 60-yard trench cut through the Waen Rhydd peat bog in Llanwrtyd Wells, wearing snorkel and flippers, but without using conventional swimming strokes. There is a small entry fee, but this includes "hosing down". Now in its 14th year, the championship is a truly international event, although the previous record of two minutes 11 seconds set by an Australian was slashed to one minute 53 seconds in 1998 by local Craig Napper.