A Brief History of Curling

Scotland - The Birthplace of Curling

Origin of the sport of curling is closely associated with Scotland. The Scots are thought to invent the game, playing on iced lakes and ponds. The sport similar to today’s is believed to be developed in medieval Scotland but the first written records mentioning the game on ice date to the early 1540s. Two paintings by Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder from two decades later depict Dutch peasants playing the sport and are the oldest known visual representation of curling. But they also reveal that curling spread from Scotland very early.

Evidence for the Origin of Curling in Scotland

Besides written records mentioning the game with stones on ice, there are also physical evidence which reveal that the sport originates from Scotland. After draining of an old pond at the town of Dunblane north of Stirling, two curling stones were found, one bearing the date of 1511 and the other one of 1551.

Etymology

The game with stones on ice was first called curling in a 1620 poem by Henry Adamson. The name comes from the Scottish and English verb “curl” which refers to the movement of stone. However, the Scots also called and sometimes still call the sport “the roaring game” due to the sound that is made by the moving stone.

Early History of Modern Curling

Curling was originally played with flat river stones that were sometimes shaped to be more flat. The thrower, however, had little control over the stone and the outcome of the game depended on luck rather than strategy or skill. Nevertheless, the sport was hugely popular in Scotland from the 16th century onwards, also due to the climate and a wealth of lakes and ponds which provided ice.

The first known curling club was founded in Kilsyth (Kilsyth Curling Club) in 1716 and is also thought to have the oldest curling pond that was built at Colzium Estate and still exists. In 1838, the Grand Caledonian Curling Club (since 1843, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club) was founded in Edinburgh with an aim to become an international governing body for the sport. This finally happened in 1965 when the World Curling Federation was formed out of the International Curling Federation which in turn was formed as a Royal Caledonian Curling Club committee in 1965.

Spread of Curling Around the World

Outside Scotland, curling became most strongly established in Canada where it was introduced by the Scottish immigrants. The first curling club in Canada – the Royal Montreal Curling Club – was founded in 1807 and remains the oldest curling club in North America. In the 19th century, the sport also took roots in the United States but it was also introduced to other parts of Europe including Sweden and Switzerland. Over the 20th century, curling became popular in most European countries and spread to many parts of the world including China, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.