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History of Curling

Updated on May 26, 2010

Curling is a winter sport in which two teams, of four players each, slide granite stones on ice in a contest of marksmanship and strategy. Each player delivers two stones, alternately with his opponent, from one end of the playing area to a target about 42 yards away. The first player on each team to deliver a stone is called the lead. He is followed by the second, the third, and the skip, or captain. The delivery of 16 stones by the teams completes an end. One point is counted for each stone of one side that lies nearer the target center, or tee, than any rival stone. A game is 10 or 12 ends.

It is believed that curling originated in Scotland more than four centuries ago. Scottish and Flemish art works depict curlers, and stones, one of them dated 1511, have been found near Stirling, north of Glasgow. Games resembling curling, called Kluyten in the Netherlands and Knattleiker in Iceland, were played in the 16th century. Today curling is especially popular in Scotland, Canada, and the northern United States.

Early curling stones, for example the Scottish kitting, weighed between 5 and 25 pounds and were rough, uncut, and unpolished. Later, stones from river beds, smoothed by the eroding action of the water, were used. With added metal handles these stones, called channel stones, sometimes weighed as much as 100 pounds. About 1775, circular stones became common. The most popular stones come from the island of Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde, Scotland.

The formation of the Amateur Curling Club of Scotland in 1834 led to standardization of the rules. This club was absorbed in 1838 by the Grand Caledonian Club (called Royal Caledonian since 1842), the sport's present ruling body.

Scottish soldiers serving with Gen. James Wolfe at Quebec City brought curling to North America in 1759. They used "iron stones"(melted-down cannon balls) and curled on the St. Lawrence River. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the first sports club in North America, was founded in 1807. And the first club in the United States was the Orchard Lakes in Michigan, dating from 1830. The first international curling match between Canada and the United States was held on Lake Erie at Buffalo in 1865.

In 1959, Canada and Scotland began an international series for the Scotch Cup, emblematic of the world championship. By 1968, when the Air Canada Silver Broom replaced the Scotch Cup, Scotland, Canada, the U. S., Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, France, and Germany took part.

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