Rules of the Game Tug of War

Rules of the Game Tug of War




The contest of pulling rope is yet another test of strength. The origins of tug of war aren’t certain, but we do know that everyone from ancient Greece to ancient Egypt participated in this unique ritual. It wasn’t until the late 19th century until tug of war was formalized as a sport in which many nations would compete against each other.


How to play Tug of War


There isn’t much to understanding tug of war, other than it’s a pulling match. Tug of war is always competed in teams of at least four, so there must be coordination between team members to have success.


Other than the rope, there isn’t much else equipment used for a tug of war match. Some teams will coordinate footwear such as heavy-duty boots for traction and digging into the ground.


Rules of Tug of War


  • In formal competitions, each team will have only four members -- consisting of three pullers and one anchor. The job of the anchor is to hoist the rope either around their shoulder or their waist and move in the opposite direction of the pullers.
  • Some teams will utilize the help of a coach to better coordinate their team’s pulling efforts. Coaches often look for points of weakness or fatigue in the other team and seek to take advantage of that.
  • To ensure that each match is as fair as possible, there are established weight classes that the four team members must qualify for in a formal tournament.
  • To win a match, one team must successfully pull the rope four meters towards them from the center of the playing field. There is never a draw in tug of war.
  • Matches are typically divided into best two out of three.
  • The playing rope is approximately 11 centimeters in circumference and 35 meters in length.
  • A foul will be called if a player uses any body part other than their hands to secure the rope. Multiple fouls can lead to a forfeit of round or even disqualification.


Even a fun-loving competition like tug of war isn’t exempt from controversy. In the 1908 Summer Olympic Games, an investigation was launched after the London City police brought home the gold with U.S. coming in third. The U.S. claimed that the London City police wore illegal cleated boots that gave them extra traction during competition. This appeal, however, was unfortunately turned down.








Written by: Devin Pickell

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