It has always been like this. We don’t know the future, but we still pretend we can figure out what is going to happen. A right guess pleases us, as it makes us feel better and gives us a self-esteem boost. Then one day, a long time ago, people decided that it must be rewarded with a more tangible prize. Maybe it was before we invented the wheel or learned how to set up a bonfire. Or just soon after that, perhaps. But we certainly began to bet on something (well just on anything really) long before we had invented writing and math. And actually, that’s what some primitive isolated tribes still do.
Another ancient thing was a competition in something that we would today call sports. In primeval times, this had more to do with grassroots magic, boy-to-man initiation, and other sacred rites of the tribes. All of this implied a need to decorate the winners, and it opened the door to betting on who is going to win.
Competition + wagering = a lot of fun. I bet we learned this exciting formula pretty early! That is why we still have many strange or even weird forms of sports and wagering combined. Some of them are very long-standing traditions, going back to ancient times.
Remember about the Vikings raiding the coasts, pillaging the lands, and grabbing women? This terrible time, full of cruelty and violence, left its mark… on sports and gambling! The couples compete in the following simple way: a man should carry his woman as fast as they can, running through an irregular terrain.
This race against time is performed with three basic variations in terms of carrying the precious cargo: over the shoulder, piggyback, or with the woman hanging upside down (bottom-up), her legs over her man’s shoulders. The latter style is called Estonian – perhaps for a reason! The Finns argue that it is their national sport, while in the UK and especially in Ireland, people think this kind of entertainment originates from the Vikings invading the coasts.
The vertebrologists would certainly question the usefulness of this particular kind of workload for the spine, but people do have a lot of fun with these sports and enjoy placing their bets on the winners. This game is so popular in Ireland that big sports betting companies like Paddy Power have begun to sponsor it! Wife-carrying race has become increasingly popular on different continents. Shall we see it included in the official program of the Olympic games? Who knows!
Yes, this is about snorkeling in a bog, if you haven’t got it right from the name of the game, or haven’t heard about it before. Where did this sport come from? Well, you can hardly expect another Viking story this time! Imagine a 60 yard trench cut through a peat bog, filled with dirty water and mud – why on earth would you want to snorkel in something like that while trying to traverse it twice in the shortest time possible? And yet, they really manage to do it very quickly!. The world record belongs to Neil Rutter (Aug. 26, 2018, Waen Rhydd bog, Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales, UK), and it’s an astounding 1 min 18.81 seconds!
There is no old tradition behind this sport, neither in Wales nor in the rest of the UK nor anywhere else. The only reason to compete in bog snorkeling would seem to be a good bet. Actually, that is what they say – that the very idea of the competition emerged during a talk in a bar in the 1980s. Perhaps, gambling and over-a-pint conversations as a driving force of innovations in sports is a topic really deserving some scientific research or even a treatise, with bog snorkeling being one of the case studies!
While bog snorkeling still remains quite a local Welsh phenomenon, its geography steadily expands, and now includes Ireland, Sweden, and Australia. They even run the world championship! The further twists include Mountain Bike Bog Riding, and Triathlon combining bog snorkeling with a 12-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run. And don’t worry: women certainly do compete in the game, with the separate Women’s World Championship! To make it even funnier, there was another twist recently introduced – Fancy Dress Bog Snorkeling!
Once upon a time, there was a man who had lost his head of cheese. Then he ran down the hill, trying to catch it before it reached the muddy pit by the foot of the hill. Of course, bog snorkeling hadn’t been invented yet, so there was nobody in the ditch to help if the head of cheese were to finally sink into the mud.
We don’t know whether the man has caught his head of cheese. But there certainly were two or three more people watching the whole thing happening. The hill must have been lofty, and the run for the cheesehead must have been long enough for them to have enough time to bet whether the runner would catch the cheese or not. And perhaps, that is the only possible explanation of how Cheese Rolling competition has been invented!
This, just another kind of wager-driven game, is quite local in England. The game is played every year; a 9-pound head of Gloucester cheese is released, so it can roll down the hill, and a group of sturdy fellows runs after it and tries to catch it. The crowd makes the bets on a man or on the cheese – yes, the cheese can also win as it rolls quite fast!
Some cheese-hunters get serious injuries during the competition – fast running down a grassy hillside with many bumps can be dangerous, something the officials regularly give warnings about. Some spectators are also reported to be occasionally hit by a fast-flying head of cheese at the foot of the hill.
There have been, and still are, many games of chance at which people wager on animals. Whose horse comes in first, whose dog or cock is the best fighter, whose cat is the fattiest and even whose rat or cockroach is the fastest – all these options provide punters with a wide scope of betting opportunities. Generally speaking, many of such games have been too cruel for a modern spectator, even if they were quite popular in the past. However, tastes change, as we all know, and so does the legislation. As of 2008, dogfights are determined as a felony in the US. Even being a spectator at a dogfight or possessing a dog for the purpose of dogfighting is also illegal across the US.
The agenda of animal rights is getting stronger over time and makes many old kinds of entertainment no longer acceptable in society. But we still bet on horses – maybe because of the fact that animal rights activists would have trouble arguing that horses do not like to run fast while we people force them to do so. In the end, betting on horses and on human athletes have many things in common. However, there are some kinds of gambling on animals that can still be considered to be pretty weird. So, here they are:
Ferrets don’t compete in this game. They don’t fight or bite each other. They can only bite people if the latter deserve it, by not being cautious or respectful enough with these agile, small, fast-moving, and extremely active (oh, and nice-looking and funny!) furry predators. Do you know why ferrets sleep 18 hours a day? Just because if they slept 17, then the whole forest ecosystem with smaller animals and birds they hunt for would have been undermined. So these ferrets are just too good as hunters, especially with their excellent appetites! These playful little creatures just love running here and there, frantically checking holes, dens, and burrows – and this does make ferret bingo very interesting and funny.
Ferrets playing in holes and tubes can be a perfect random number generator as nobody (perhaps including the ferret itself) knows what the ferret is going to do next, and which hole it’s going to go into. Imagine a box with eight numbered tunnels. You have to predict from which numbered tunnel the ferret is going to exit. And once a ferret chooses a tunnel, another one can’t follow them yet, as the tunnel is automatically blocked, and two ferrets come out from two different holes. The ferrets are excited as they play this game, while the people who win are also happy – and so, that’s ferret bingo for you! In fact, anyone who loses money can also be satisfied and feel rewarded, as ferrets are the kind of lovely animals people usually like to see – and especially if they end up generating the right numbers, of course!
Now this is another game where animals generate random numbers without even being aware of it! You just have to bet on where the cow is going to crap – as simple as that. Grids with the numbers are drawn on the field, the cow walks and craps where it wants – this way generating the winning numbers.
Imagine an agitated gathering of punters enjoying waiting for one hour by the field where some cameras are installed, and the picture is rendered on the screen to show where exactly the cow is crapping. Also, imagine the preparation of the cow – it’s been pretty well-fed but given no laxative, as you probably might have thought. Imagine a jury deciding to which number the manure would count if the cow craps straight on the line separating the numbered squares. In such cases, the square with more manure wins. And finally, imagine how thrilled a bettor might be when he sees that the cow has stopped at the square he has put his wager on, but still indecisive whether to release the prize or not!
Usually, a well-fed cow would crap at least once during one hour in the field. But sometimes it can be more than once, which is a matter of additional excitement. It can also happen that the cow does not crap at all. In this case, the winner is the bettor who has wagered on the square, at which the right front leg of the cow is standing at the end of the hour.
Are all the people involved in this particular kind of gambling normal and sane? Are they any different from those who play roulette or slots? Technically, it is still the game of chance driven by the random number generator. However, gambling on the manure might still seem a bit weird to some people.
Are some of these games going to be included in the official program of the Olympic games? Let’s put it another way: is Cheese Rolling any worse or better than curling? (with all due respect to curling, of course). Or shall we start making bets already about which of the strange or weird sports from this list will be present at the Olympics, and when?
Sports, politics, film, and television are the most popular areas for placing a wager, but people can actually bet on practically anything they can think of. Apart from the strange things people gamble on that we’ve listed in this article, there are also some other pretty bizarre bets out there:
There have been many strange bets in history:
Well, this largely depends on the bet and how it was made. A written contract between two sides or a bet made with a licensed bookmaker is, of course, binding. However, if you’ve made your bet at a bar and won – then you may have trouble with legally enforcing it if the losing side refuses to pay.
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