Wanna Bet? A Look At Obscure British Sports

BY ANASTASIA MONTAVON

Every country mass produces something, and it seems like the United Kingdom mass produces obscure sports. Some were created because of a bet, or to make the country look good, or just out of boredom. No matter the reason, the UK has created its fair share of obscure and relatively unheard of sports.

Now, what if you love the thrill of a well-pressed shirt and the adrenaline of extreme sports? Then extreme ironing might be the sport for you! Many say that this sport started in 1997 in Leicester, England by resident Phil Shaw in his backyard. Extreme ironing is when people take their ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing. People have ironed while mountain climbing, canoeing, skiing or snowboarding, standing on top of statues, being underwater and while parachuting. This can be done alone or with friends.

Not a fan of ironing? Would you rather chase something? Then Cheese-Rolling might be your sport. This event takes place once a year at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England. The event has been happening since the 15th century, and is said to have either evolved from a requirement for maintaining grazing rights on the common or from pagan origins, where there was a custom of rolling objects down a hill, for the purpose of conducting a fertility rite. Contestants chase a nine pound round of Double Gloucester cheese down a hill, and since the cheese can reach speeds up to seventy miles per hour, the real goal isn’t so much to catch the cheese as it is to cross the finish line first.

If you hate running, you can always try swimming! In 1976, a bet took place in a tavern in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, and bog snorkeling was born. The World Bog Snorkeling Championship didn’t start until 1985, and it takes place every year in early August. Bog snorkeling consists of competitors swimming through two consecutive lengths of a peat bog in the shortest time possible. Competitors must complete the course without using conventional swimming strokes, relying on flipper power alone. Each swimming trench is 60 yards, for a total course of 120 yards. Other bog snorkeling events are held in Australia, Ireland and Sweden.

Need a use for your toes? Some bar patrons from 1974 Wetton, Staffordshire, England have you covered. After complaining that the United Kingdom never really produced any world champions, they realized that if they could invent a new sport that no one else knew about, then the UK would have to be the world champions. And so, toe wrestling was born. However, two years after the sport started, a Canadian visitor came and won, so the sport was discontinued for a long period of time. Now it is regaining popularity, and the World Toe Wrestling Championship is held annually near Ashbourne, Derbyshire, England. As the name implies, the rules are similar to arm wrestling and is played with bare feet.

Believe it or not, there are even more obscure sports started in the UK that didn’t make this article, including the annual man vs. horse marathon, ferret legging and octopush. So if you ever visit the UK and you want to get down and dirty, see if you can participate in some of these unique sports. Make sure you’re careful though, as some of these sports (like cheese rolling) can result in injury!

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