Tejo: Colombia’s Crazy National Sport Uncover Colombia
Tour in Bogota, Tejo


June 19, 2024, 1:20 pm

Bang! A target explodes as a team of beer-swigging Colombians high-five one another amid boastful cheering and dancing. Their team takes the points and wins the round. The other side regroups and prepares for their next attempt at blowing up the mark. This is tejo, Colombia's gunpowder-fuelled national sport.

Tejo was invented by the indigenous community inhabiting the small town of Turmeque in the department of Boyaca during the pre-Hispanic times. At that time, the sport was called Turmeque and consisted of throwing a golden disc into a hole approximately 20 meters away. Today, this ancient sport is slightly different, thanks to the Spanish influence that turned it into a more interesting and explosive sport.

The modern Tejo consists of hurling heavy metal disks (tejos) across a distance of 10-20 meters, depending on skill level, at triangular pieces of paper containing explosive material. These small targets are placed in a wooden box filled with muddy clay. Upon impact, there is a deafening blast so loud it shakes the entire arena and brings the conversation to a halt. Then laughter erupts, and the game resumes.

Men, women and children all share in the madness with varying weights and distances. Points are awarded based on several factors:

Hand: 1 point awarded for getting closest to a paper target at the end of the round

Hit: 3 points for exploding the paper target

Bullseye: 6 points for landing in the centre of the clay area

Strike: 9 points for a Bullseye/Hit combo

With this short explanation about how to play Tejo, you have probably already inferred that this is definitely not a strategic game or a very physically demanding sport, and that basically anyone can do it. Well, let me tell you that you are completely right. Despite the fact that there are professional players and regional tournaments across Colombia, anyone can play Tejo and have fun. The most important aspect of this game is not necessarily to win, it is just to enjoy some time with your friends, colleagues or family. When playing Tejo, it does not matter if you’re the cleverest or if you are a highly competitive athlete, the most important thing is to have fun in the middle of a friendly atmosphere, with loud music, small explosions, drinking beer (it is said that the more you drink, the better you play), getting dirty and off course trying not to hit anyone with your tejo.

Although tejo is mainly played in the rural areas of Colombia and in the most populous neighbourhoods in the main cities, the sport is gradually becoming trendy and popular among other social spheres in Colombia. More and more people see tejo as another option of entertainment. If you are travelling to Colombia or living there and you want to experience an authentic piece of Colombian culture, perhaps spending an afternoon or evening playing tejo might leave you another unique memory of your time in Colombia.

Share with your traveller friends!

Nidia Penagos

Nidia Penagos

Nidia started Uncover Colombia after feeling the tug to promote her native country through a positive perspective. What better way to do that than showing visitors the beauty and diversity of her homeland? She was well-aware Colombia didn’t have the best reputation and she wanted to change that. So in 2012, with the help of her Colombian husband and close group of friends, she laid the foundation to build a Colombian tour operator that offers unique adventures, safe experiences and utilises local knowledge on each and every tour. 

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