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From a distance, it might just look like two groups of people fighting over the ownership of a rope. But it’s so much more than that.

It’s a game.

It’s a sport.

It’s Tug of War!

And along with it comes International Tug of War Day!

History of International Tug of War Day

One of the simplest of sports, perhaps dating back to ownership disputes over food and clothing, the history of Tug of War disappears into legend with the Sun and Moon wrestling over light and darkness.

The basic elements of the game are simple: two teams hold each end of a large rope and attempt to pull the other towards them, over some sort of barrier or line in the middle, in order to win. From humble beginnings, Tug-of-war has become a competitive sport that takes place around the world and has a long and ancient history.

Most cultures have references to competitions of strength that involve pulling in opposite directions. have been found as artifacts in places such as on stone carvings, in ancient texts and also through legends.

Viking history shows that these rugged warriors may have used animal skins that were stretched across a fire pit – in case any more incentive to pull was required! When tall ships were common on the seas, a ‘tug ‘o’ war’ was a common way for sailors to show their prowess with heavy rigging.

Even today, contests often take place over bodies of water or muddy areas so that the losing team suffers the indignity of falling in, which is surely preferable to the Viking version of tug-of-war when teams competed over a pit of fire.

Added to the Olympic Games in 1900 and subsequently dropped from the games after 1920, Tug of War still remains a Worldwide sport and many nations have their own governing bodies. The Tug of War International Federation now oversees games for at least 70 member countries, and Tug of War is still a sport that is played in the World Games every four years.

International Tug of War Day Timeline

1000 BC (or earlier)

Tug of War is practiced

While the game’s origins are unclear, it is known that Tug of War is practiced in Ancient Egypt, Cambodia, Greece, India and China. A book from the Tang Dynasty calls the sport “hook pulling” and reveals that it is used to train soldiers.[1]


Tug of War is introduced at the Olympic Games

During the Olympic Games this year in Paris, France, Tug of War is introduced using either five or six team members. This year’s gold medal winners are a combined team made up of Sweden and Denmark, defeating France who takes the silver.[2]


The final Tug of War competition is held at the Olympic Games

This year’s gold medal winner is Great Britain with the Netherlands taking the silver medal. After this year, the Olympic Committee decides the games have too many sports and they choose to cut 32 other sports in addition to tug of war.[3]


Tug of War International Federation is founded

This organization is created to administer Tug of War competitions worldwide. Many countries join and it quickly grows to almost 70 member countries on all inhabited continents.[4]


Tug of War is included in the first World Games

Tug of War is a founding sport of the The World Games. The games are held every four years in the year following the Summer Olympics, consisting of games that are not contested during the Olympics.[5]

How to Celebrate International Tug of War Day

Join in on celebrating International Tug-of-War Day in a variety of fun ways! Try out these ideas for getting started:

Visit a Tug of War Competition

Aside from formal competitions, ‘pulls’ are featured at many fairs and festivals. Spectators are encouraged to cheer on their favorite side and each side can range from just a couple of people to a full team of eight. Some groups are even much larger.

If there’s nothing happening in the local area, it might be fun to hop online to YouTube or another video site and watch some Tug of War competitions and championships as they battle it out in various countries all over the world.

Learn More About Tug of War

Think you know everything there is to know about this sport? Think again! Although it can be as simple as two guys and a rope, it has developed into a sophisticated game with certain rules and regulations to keep everything fair and enjoyable.

One great way to learn about the sport featured on International Tug of War Day is by gleaning information from the Tug of War International Federation as a resource. Important information includes anti-doping rules, the mission statement for the organization and the latest news in the world of Tug of War.

Get Kids Involved in International Tug of War Day

Although it might seem like a sport that is only related to brute force, Tug of War is much more than that. In fact, the root of this game is deeply involved with a great amount of science.

Playing the sport on International Tug of War day can be a great way to introduce kids in the classroom or at home to a science lesson through hands-on learning. It’s a great way to organize lessons in science and math that include concepts like friction and mass.

Host a Tug of War Competition

Get everyone excited about International Tug of War Day by hosting a competition at work, in the neighborhood or at the gym! The number of people taking part can vary from just a few to a large crowd, with the world record for a single tug-of-war standing at 1,574 participants.

Make it a community event by encouraging local businesses to sponsor the activity and perhaps offer some prizes. Or, better yet, sell tickets and donate the proceeds to a local charitable organization.

It is not surprising that such a popular event has its own annual day: Tug-of-War Day. Cries of ‘heave-ho!’ are heard around the world on a day when numerous matches take place, giving a chance to take part or cheer on this timeless team game!

International Tug of War Day FAQs

Why is Tug of War called Tug of War?

Also known as tug o’ war, rope pulling or rope war, the term Tug of War originally meant a struggle, a tussle, or a contest of supremacy. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the term was used in relation to the sport. Prior to that, it was often called “French and English”.[1]

How to play Tug of War with a dog?

Playing Tug of War with a puppy or dog can be loads of fun and really good exercise for a dog with no aggression problems. Pick a toy, choose a release command, initiate the game and have fun![2]

How many people can play Tug of War?

Well, it certainly takes at least two people to play the game properly. But beyond that it’s really up to the players. The game is the most fun when the sides are fairly distributed. To be considered official, each Tug of War team will have 8 people.[3]

Was Tug of War an Olympic Sport?

Yes! Starting in 1900, Tug of War competitions were included in the Olympic games. The sport was removed in 1920, along with more than 30 others, when the Olympic Committee decided to cut down on the number of sports in the games.[4]

Where should the strongest person be in Tug of War?

While it might feel tempting to put the strongest person in the front of the team, the best way to leverage that strength is by putting the strongest person in the back.[5]

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