“Competition of knights in mowing’, is a centuries-old tradition.
It is called Strljanica meadow in Kupres, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and takes place the first Sunday in July.
The reaper competition for the Kozbaša title and the horse race are the central events of Strljanica.
Rural sports – throwing a stone from the shoulder, pulling a rope, long jump, wrestling on a log and other long-forgotten sports leaves younger generations a message to preserve the legacy for future generations.
The speed, width and tidiness of the slope are appreciated. The best reaper is declared a “kosbaš“. In Kupres, being a kosbaša was the greatest honor and reputation.
Hay was necessary for feeding cattle in the long and harsh Kupres winters, so mowing and storing hay was the most important and crucial activity for survival. That is why the best reapers had a reputation, and the birth of a male child was especially celebrated because the future reaper was born.
Among the many winners, the narration of the Highlanders highlights two inviolables, Đuro Bratić from Kudilj and Stipe Ćurković known as Rade Sokolov. From ancient times, in these meadows, in addition to mowing, they competed in traditional sports: hiking, throwing stones from the shoulders, horse racing, long jump ‘from the spot’, and then the tug of war.
Today it attracts thousands of visitors, and the event is the seal of the beginning of the summer tourist season in Kupres and the wider area.
In December 2020, it was reported that Strljanica had been placed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
The contest involves the manual mowing of grass using a scythe and is judged by the time, effort and amount mown as cutting grass at that altitude requires strength and a special technique.
The top 3 mowers are recognized, with the chief mower treated as a leader who ensures the successful mowing of all the fields to gather hay for the cattle; agriculture and cattle breeding are essential parts of the area’s economy.
Men, starting from the age of 18, are traditionally the competitors, with the element being transmitted within families from father to son. Women rake the grass and prepare food for guests. Other elements linked to the competition include national costumes, the forging of scythes and the preparation of cattle for competition.
All ethnic and religious groups and individuals in Kupres are free to participate, with the custom being considered as a foundation of the area’s cultural identity, regardless of people’s background.