Curling.—Is a Game played upon the ice, by sliding
stones, made for the purpose, from one point to another. In some
respects it resembles Bowling, but with these differences, that the
stones are slidden upon the ice, not rolled—neither are they made
like Bowls, to curve on their passage; the points, also, to which
the stones are played are stationary, whereas in Bowling the Jack is
moveable; and in Curling, the ice in the path of the stone may be
polished by sweeping—and thus the players may compensate for the
want of force with which a stone may have been thrown.
Pennant, in his “Tour through Scotland” gives the
following rough description of the Game:—“Of all the sports in those
parts, that of Curling is the favorite. It is an amusement of the
winter, and played upon the ice, by sliding from one mark to
another, great stones of 40 to 70 lbs. weight, of a hemispherical
form, with a wooden or iron handle at top. The object of the player
is to lay his stone as near the mark as possible, to guard that of
his partner which has been well laid before, or to strike off that
of his antagonist.” Such is a brief outline of that Game, a fuller
description of which is attempted in the following pages.
Stones.—These are made of granite, or of any other
stone which is hard, free from sand, and not liable to break. They
are cut into a spherical form, flattened at top and bottom, and the
angles rounded off and polished, particularly that at the sole. The
handle is inserted in the top. Though they must all be made
circular, the proportion of the diameter to the thickness varies in
different districts; some being made more and some less than twi ce
as wide as they are thick. The Grand Caledonian Curling Club has
lately suggested the following scale—the first attempt that has been
made to regulate the proportions of Curling Stones—and which for the
sake of uniformity, it is hoped, will be adopted, viz:—
“When the weight is under
35 lbs. imp., the height not to be more than 4¼
38 lbs.................................4½ inches.
41 lbs.................................4¾ inches.
44 lbs.................................5 inches.
47 lbs.................................5¼ inches.
50 lbs.................................5½ inches.
“Whatever be the diameter or weight, the height ought
never to exceed 6 1/8 inches, nor be less than 4 ¼inches—None ought
to be allowed in a set game of greater diameter than 12 inches, nor
of a greater weight than 50 lbs. imperial.”
Stones are sometimes so finished as to slide on
either of the flattened surfaces, one of which in such cases, is
made slightly concave, and on this side the stone is played when the
ice is hard and keen; the other, a little convex, being used when
the ice is soft and dull.
In some parts of Canada, where suitable stone cannot
readily be procured, iron or wood has been substituted. At Quebec
and Montreal, castings of iron, in the shape of Curling Stones, are
played with—the intensity of the cold there, rendering the stones
liable to break on striking against one another. Iron is used also
by the Curlers of Dundas, in the Gore District; and at Guelph, where
the Game has some ardent admirers, they play with blocks of hard
wood. At Toronto, and the Curling localities in the neighborhood,
stones only have been used; part having been imported from Scotland,
and others having been made by the stone-cutter to the Club, from
blocks of excellent quality picked up by him on the land in the
vicinity. Several of the stones imported to Toronto have been made
from Ailsa Craig, which, it appears, has long been known as an
excellent material for the purpose; one of those now referred to
having been played with by the father of the present owner, at least
sixty years ago.
The Rink.—The ice on which the game is played is
called the Rink. This should be a sheet of fifty yards in length and
four yards in width; perfectly free from every inequality. At the
distance of four yards from each end of the rink, and in the middle
crosswise, a circular hole is made, about an inch in diameter and
the same in depth, called the “tee.” Round the tee two or more
circular lines are drawn, the largest having a diameter of about
five feet, the others smaller and at intermediate distances. The
space within the largest circle is called the “brough.” The use of
the circular lines is to shew, while the game is being played, the
comparative nearness of the stones to the tee; actual measurement
not being allowed until all the stones have been played to one end
of the rink. A line is also drawn across the tee, at right angles
with the rink lengthwise, and extending to the outermost circle, the
use of which will be shewn in the remarks relating to sweeping. At
the distance of seven yards from each of the tees a line is drawn
across the rink, called the “hog-score,” and stones which on being
played do not pass this score are called “hogs” and lose for that
time the chance of counting, being distanced or thrown off the rink.
Playing.—When the player is about to throw his
stones, he places himself at one end of the rink, rests his right
foot in a notch, or “hack” made in the ice,1 and
in such a relation to the tee that when he delivers his stone it
must pass over it. He is directed by one of the players of his own
party, styled the “skip” who stands at or near the tee to which the
stone is to be played, and who usually makes use of his broom to
indicate the point to which, or the line along which, he wishes the
stone to be played. Should the stone be delivered with the proper
degree of strength, and in the direction pointed out to the player
by the skip, it will either rest at the spot required, or receiving,
as the skip intended, a new direction by coming in contact with some
other stone, will effect the desired purpose. The player on
delivering his stone raises it off the ice, and swinging it once
behind him to acquire a proper impetus, and to make surer of his
aim, keeping his eye, at the same time, steadily fixed on the broom
of the skip, or on any stone, or other object towards or against
which he may be desired to play, throws it in that direction. The
stone reaching the ice on its sole about two feet in front of the
player—his body naturally following the same direction until the
stone be fairly delivered.
Sweeping.—For the purpose of Sweeping, every player
is furnished with a broom, by means of which the ice may sometimes
be so polished that a stone may reach the tee, which, without
sweeping, could not have passed the hog score. When a stone,
therefore, in its progress up the rink appears to the skip to have
been thrown with insufficient force, he directs his party to sweep
the ice in its path. The party opposed to that whose stone is coming
up is not allowed to sweep in front of the line drawn across the
brough, but may sweep behind it, so as to let the stone, if it
should pass the tee, go far enough beyond it, to lose the chance of
The brooms used in Scotland are usually made of
“broom,” sometimes of birch twigs, and occasionally of heather, as
one or other may be found most convenient to the place of playing.
In Canada, “corn brooms” which have been used for domestic purposes
a sufficient length of time to be stripped of the knotty parts which
might break off and obstruct the progress of the stone, have been
found to be the best. Some Curlers in Scarboro', near Toronto, who
have immigrated from Lanarkshire, have imported stocks of the
genuine Scotch broom, which, under their cultivation, thrives so
well as to promise to supersede the use of every other material.
The Game.—The usual mode of playing the game is with
16 stones on a rink. This number is sufficient to impart interest to
the playing, and more would towards the end of the head, crowd the
ice. Sometimes these are played by four players on each side,
playing two stones each, which mode may be preferable when a few
only are exercising for practice; but in such case the sweeping,
which —unless the ice be very keen—is essential to success, can
never be properly attended to, as the skip and player being
sufficiently occupied in their own departments, only two brooms can
be effectively employed at the same time. The most interesting game,
therefore, is where there are sixteen players on a rink, with one
stone each, eight players on each side; and a game so played is now
to be described.
The parties determine by lot which is to “have the
ice” or in other words, which is to play the first stone. It is
doubtful whether it be an advantage to win the ice, as the party who
loses this plays the last stone—the most important in determining
the result of the head. The side who wins the end plays the first
stone on the end following.
The skip of the party who is to play first,
stationing himself on that tee towards which the stones are to be
thrown., directs the player who is to “lead” or play the first
stone, on his side. When this stone is played the skip of the
opposite party takes the same post, pointing out to his first player
how he wishes his stone to be played. Each side plays one stone
alternately, and the object of each successive player is to draw
nearer the tee than any of his opponents, to strike out their
winning shots, or to guard the winners of his own party. The earlier
stages of the end therefore appear simple enough; but after the
first eight or ten stones have been played, especially when they
have been played well, the game becomes more intricate and more
interesting. One party may have a stone covering the tee, apparently
guarded on every side, and impregnable to attack, the stones of
their opponents having only strengthened its position; yet some
stone which, either from a ruse on the part of the director, or from
being badly played, has rested near the edge of the rink and seems
to be lost for that end, may furnish a point to which another stone
may be slidden, and receiving thence a new direction may reach the
winner, and removing it from the tee, become itself the winning
The director generally plays the last stone on his
own side. The seventh player is usually appointed to that position
in the order of the game on account of his being a correct and
powerful player, so that he may, when necessary, open up a path for
the stone of the “hind hand.”
When the stones are all played to one end of the
rink, the game is counted, and every stone which either party has
nearer the tee than any stone of their opponents, counts one shot or
point; and such portion of the game is styled an “end” or “head.”
The number of shots in a game is variable, depending
on agreement. The Toronto Club usually play for 31, in a regular
game; and in their matches among themselves, or with the Scarboro’
Curlers, when more than one rink has been engaged, the practice has
been, either to play to an hour specified, or to stop before that
hour should the aggregate shots of either party on all the rinks
collectively amount to thirty-one for each rink. In Scotland, where
the continuance of the curling season is very precarious, all who
have it in their power, play the whole of every day while the ice
will permit, and, consequently, the number of shots played for is
more uniform. At Toronto, where Curling may be practised almost
daily, fully three months in the year, the rink is resorted to for
one or two hours’ recreation, and seven, thirteen, or twenty-one
shots are frequently fixed on as the game, according to the time
intended to be devoted to the exercise.
Laws of the Game.—In every district of Scotland, and
in almost every club, some differences are to be found in the mode
of conducting the game. Little difficulty, however, is there
experienced from the want of written laws, the lex non scripta of
every parish or county being perfectly understood where it is in
force. Still in Edinburgh and a few other places where Curlers from
distant Clubs are likely to meet, it has been found necessary to
have their laws reduced to writing so that from whatever part of the
country the player might come, he could not be ignorant of the rules
by which his playing was to be governed. At Toronto, the want of a
written code of laws, was for a number of years, felt to be
inconvenient—few of the original Curlers having been accustomed to
play exactly according to the same system. It was, therefore, one of
the first objects of the Toronto Curling Club, after its formation,
to draw up a set of Rules, founded on the prevailing practice in
Scotland. The following, therefore, were agreed to—and although not
applicable to every case that may be conceived, they have been found
sufficient to decide, satisfactorily, every difficulty that has
occurred during the experience of four years; and have been
cheerfully agreed to by the Scarboro’ Curlers, in their matches with
those of Toronto.
1st.—The Rink to be forty-two yards from tee to tee, 2 unless
otherwise agreed upon by the parties. When a game is begun the rink
cannot be changed or altered unless by the consent of a majority of
players, and it can be shortened only when it is apparent that a
majority cannot play the length.
2nd.—The hog score must be distant from the tee
one-sixth part of the length of the rink. Every stone to be deemed a
hog, the sole of which, when at rest, does not completely clear the
3rd.—Every player to foot so that in delivering his
stone, it shall pass over the tee.
4th.—The order of playing adopted at the beginning
must not be changed during a game.
5th.—Curling-stones must be of a circular shape. No
stone to be changed during a game, t unless it happen to be broken;
and the largest fragment of such stone to count, without any
necessity of playing with it more. If a stone roll or be upset, it
must be placed upon its sole where it stops. Should the handle quit
a stone in the delivery, the player must keep hold of it, otherwise
he will not be entitled to replay the shot.
6th.—The player may sweep his own stone the whole
length of the rink; his party not to sweep until it has passed the
first hog score, and his adversaries not to sweep until it has
passed the tee—the sweeping to be always to a side.
7th.—None of the players, on any account, to cross or
go upon the middle of the rink.
8th.—If, in sweeping or otherwise, a running stone is
marred by any of the party to which it belongs, it must be put off
the rink; if by any of the adverse party, it must be placed
agreeably to the direction which was given to the player; and if it
be marred by any other means, the player may take his shot again.
Should a stone at rest be accidentally displaced, it must be put as
near as possible in its former situation.
9th.—Every player must be ready when his turn comes,3 and
must take only a reasonable time to play his shot—should he, by
mistake, play with a wrong stone, it must be replaced where it
stops, by the one which he ought to have played.
10th.—A doubtful shot must be measured by a neutral
person, whose determination shall be final.
11th.—The skips alone shall direct the game. The
players of the respective skips may offer them their advice, but
cannot control their directions; nor is any person, except the skip,
to address him who is about to play. Each skip may appoint one of
his party to take charge for him, when he is about to play. Every
player to follow the direction given to him.
12th.—Should any question arise, the determination of
which may not be provided for by the words and spirit of the
preceding Rules, each party to choose one of their number, in order
to determine it. If the two so chosen differ in opinion, they are to
name an umpire, whose decision shall be final.
When a few players are curling for practice, or
recreation, some of the above laws may not be rigidly enforced; but
any relaxation should always be noticed, so that there may be no
difficulty in strictly adhering to them when playing a Bonspiel, or
The preceding account has been, as far as
practicable, divested of technical terms, in order that it might be
the more intelligible to the uninitiated. Many of the words and
phrases, however, used in Curling are peculiar to the game—throwing
light on its origin and history,—and it would now be as difficult
Curlers to abolish the language of the rink, as it
would be for the gentlemen of certain learned professions, to
substitute the Queen’s English for their most unclassical Latin. An
explanation of the following terms, which are in constant use, is
therefore indispensable in a work of this nature;
Angled Guard—A stone which obliquely covers or guards
one stone or more.
Bias—An inclination in the ice, tending to lead a
stone off the direction given to it by the player.
Block the ice—See '‘fill the ice.”
Bonspel, bonspid, bonspeel—(French bon, good, and
Belgic spell, a play—a good game; or Suio-Gothic, bonne, a
husbandman; or Belgic, bonne, a village or district; because one
district challenges another to play at this game.) A match at
Curling between two opposite parties. Break an egg on—To strike one
stone very gently with another.
Brough—(Alemanic, bruchus, a camp, often circular).
The space within the largest circle drawn round the tee.
Channel-stane,—A Curling stone is so named in the
southern counties of Scotland, probably from stones found in streams
having been first used for curling.
Chuckle to—To make two or more inwicks up a port to a
Creep—(Come creeping up the rink) the stones are said
to creep when they are thrown with little force.
Curling—(German, kurzweillin, to play for amusement;
or Teutonic, krullen, krollen, sinuare, to bend,—as the great art of
the game is to make the stones bend, twist (quod vide),Curl, towards
the mark, when they cannot reach it in a straight line.) Sliding
stones along the ice towards a mark.
Dead guard—A stone which completely covers another,
concealing it from the view of the next player, is a dead guard upon
Deliver—To throw the stone.
Director—The same as “skip” or “skipper.”
Draw a shot—to play to a spot pointed out by the
director, having no other stone to strike or rest upon.
Dour, drug, dull—The state of the ice when the stone
cannot easily be thrown the length of the rink.
End—That portion of the game in which the stones are
all played to one end of the rink.
Guard—To lay a stone in a line before another; or the
stone so laid.
Hack, or hatch—(Icelandic, hiaka, or Suio-Gothic
hacka, a chop, cut, or crack), a cut in the ice, in which the player
places his foot to prevent it from slipping as he delivers his
Hindhand—He who plays the last stone on his side.
Hog Score—The line drawn across the rink, about seven
yards from the tee; stones which do not pass this are thrown aside.
How ice—The ice in the middle of the
rink, hollowed by the friction of the stones; also called white ice.
Inring, inwick—See “Wicking.”
Keen—The opposite of dour.
Leader—He who plays first in order in his party, c
Lie in the bosom of—To play a stone so as gently to
touch and lie before another.
Pat lid—A Curling stone lying on the tee.
Port—An opening between two stones, wide enough to
admit another to be played through.
Rack—A word used in some districts instead of rink.
Redd the ice—(Icelandic, rada ordinare, to put in
order; also, to warn, to advise,) to clear the ice, or to break the
guards with a stone strongly played, so as to expose the tee or the
winner; to “ride” successfully.
Rest—To draw to any object or point so as not to pass
Ride—To throw a stone with great force towards one or
more other stones, in order to remove them from their position.
Rink—The ice on which the game is played.
Shot—A stone played; in another sense, a stone which
Skip, or skipper—(Probably from Suio-Gothic, skeppare, a
master), a director.
Tee—(Icelandic, tia, to point out the place; or,
Teutonic, tygh-en, to point to), the winning point to which the
stones are played.
Twist—To give to a stone, on its being delivered, a
rotary motion, so that it revolves on its sole as it slides along
the rink, and bends from the straight line, when the force with
which it has been thrown is nearly exhausted.
Wicking, wick, inwick—(Suio-Gothic wick, a corner; or
Teutonic, wyck, a turning), to make a stone take an oblique
direction by striking another on the side.
Other contrivances than the hack are used in some
places to prevent the foot of the player from slipping. Sometimes a
thin board is laid on the ice, on which he places both his feet. At
Toronto, the hack is considered the best, and although the Club has
“crampits” for the benefit of those accustomed to them, they are
required only by strangers or novices, experience demonstrating
The Grand Caledonian Curling Club recommend that
rinks have double tees at each end, the one at least two yards
behind the other; the whole four to be nearly as possible on the
same line. The stones are to be delivered from the outer tee and
played towards the inner; this saves the ice from being injured
around the tee played up to.
With regard to double-soled stones, the Grand
Caledonian Curling Club has a law that the side commenced with shall
not, under forfeiture of the match, be changed during the progress
of the game.
An excellent method of obviating the confusion which
is sometimes experienced in the early ends of a game, by players
being doubtful of their places is, that before commencing, the
players on each side of a rink should ‘ ‘fall in’ ’ in the order in
winch it is intended they shall play, and “number off from right to
left.” The player who makes a mistake after this has been done is
fit neither for a Curler nor a Soldier. This method has been
practised at Toronto since the winter of 1837-38—when military terms
and ideas were infused into every department of life.