Pigeon racing

Gruesome British folk sports – from cheese-rolling to Hare Pie Scramble

‘Two mobs of men fighting over possession of a ball in a freezing, muddy river in Derbyshire,’ writes Harry Pearson, ‘is the British equivalent of the Rio Carnival.’ He’s not wrong. Brazil may have the sun, but we’ve got the capacity for mindless violence. It’s a trait expressed in many of the folk sports covered in this highly entertaining book. The mass football games (such as the one in Ashbourne), which take place over pitches several miles long, aren’t quite as vicious as they once were. In a Georgian contest between the Men of Suffolk and the Men of Norfolk, nine players died. In Jedburgh, they used an Englishman’s severed