Of Auto-Polo, Tortoise-Racing and Waterfall-Riding…

The world of sport is diverse and colourful. Much more colourful than what you’ll usually see on (German) TV and even more diverse than the entire Olympic Programme. But when you take a look at the past, this variety becomes even wider and more astonishing.

A recently published book by Edward Brooke-Hitching explores the largely uncharted territory of ‘forgotten sports’, their appeal to contemporaries and the reason(s) for their failure. The 92(!) different and often eccentric sports presented in this book have all largely disappeared, either, as the author puts it, because they were too dangerous for participants and/or spectators, too cruel to humans or (more often) animals or simply far too ridiculous. Many of them were all three of these…

And while sometimes you might feel a certain degree of regret for the disappearance of a particular ‘event’ (like ‘Dwile Flonking’ or ‘Centrifugal Bowling’), in most cases… well… not so much… And if today’s foxes, bears, lions, dogs, cats, eels, etc. knew what we did to their ancestors…

But back to the book itself. I think it’s a quite enjoyable and informative read, written with emphasis on historicity but also the right amount of humour, taking our ancestors’ entertainment not more serious than they themselves would have, and certainly recommendable to anybody interested in the wide world of sport in all its craziness.

As mentioned before (and as evident from the original title), animal lovers may want to treat this book with some caution…

Edward Brooke-Hitching: Enzyklopädie der vergessenen Sportarten, liebeskind-Verlag, München 2016 (ISBN: 978-3-95438-068-8)

English original: Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and other Forgotten Sports, Simon & Schuster, London 2015.

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