The competition of strength has roots in many ancient civilizations, but its precise origin in unknown. Reference to this and similar physical tests have been seen in old carvings and artwork made by many including ancient Egyptians and vikings. It started out as a way to settle disputes between individuals and groups over things like food and clothing before evolving into the competitive sport it is today. Legend also surrounds the game likening it to the constant battle that took place between the Sun and the Moon, fighting daily over whether the world should be shrouded in light or darkness.
When tall ships were a common form of transport and travel on the high seas, sailors who needed to stay fit for their rigging duties began to play the game as a form of practice and an entertaining rivalry. The name “Tug-o-War” may have originated from crews who practiced and played the game on Man-o-War ships. Tug-o-war became an organized sport in the late 19th century when clubs began to form around competing. It became a featured sport at the 1900 Olympics in Paris, and remained a part of the Olympic games until 1920. Countries began forming associations for tug-o-war after the sport was trimmed from the Olympic program, with the first popping up in Sweden in 1933. Other countries across the world soon followed suit.
In 1960, the Tug-of-War International Federation (TWIF) was formed and as of 2008, 53 countries were a part of the federation. Each year the federation holds a world championship game.
To celebrate today, grab a rope, some buddies, and compete in a good old-fashioned game! If you want to have an official by-the-book game, check out the rules here.
Happy Tug-o-War Day!