History of Darts: When, Why, and By Whom Was It Invented?
Did the origin of darts come from bars and pubs? How many years has this game actually been around? And who did invent it? Learn about the origins and the history of darts through our article below! Get ready to impress your friends with facts and knowledge!
- The Middle Ages: Who Invented Darts and Why?
- The 19th Century: From Military to the Pubs
- The 20th Century: Across Borders
The Middle Ages: Who Invented Darts and Why?
Darts has a long history of around 700 years. There are many theories about where this game came from, but most people agree that King Arthur’s soldiers invented the earliest form of darts during the Middle Ages. Many researchers believe darts were considered a recreational activity in the military. If you look at the gameplay and equipment, darts are very similar to archery.
A dart itself looks very much like a miniature arrow, and the dartboard resembles an archery target. Soldiers competed with each other by throwing spears, sharp objects, or anything shaped like mini arrows at a target to pass the time and entertain. This was also a good way to improve their skills to aim and shoot, which was very beneficial on the war field. Interestingly, the officials seemed to be very supportive of this kind of activity from the soldiers. Even King Henry VIII was believed to be quite fond of darts.
One of his wives, Anne Boleyn, was recorded giving him an exquisitely decorated set of darts. And if the King himself liked the game, it surely became popular among the nobles. Soldiers played darts regularly to entertain and sharpen their aiming and shooting abilities on the battlefield. Their superiors were supportive and encouraging. These factors made darts become popular in the Middle Ages, at least within the military.
The 19th Century: From Military to the Pubs
Gradually soldiers took darts out of military settings and then to the pubs. Since darts was very easy to set up and play, it quickly became popular. Anyone with any physical conditions, as long as they can hold and throw, can play darts.
The Hockey and Sons was believed to be the place that standardized the darts throwing distance (however, according to the Brewery History Society, there was no record of such a brewery). People would set up three crates, nine feet each, next to each other from the board to the players to set up the throwing line. Now, the distance is 7 feet, 9.25 inches (237cm). During this period, a wide variety of rules and scoring systems were formed and followed at different locations and regions.
This raised the need for a standard playing and scoring framework. Many individuals believe that Brian Gamlin – a carpenter from Lancashire, England – was the one who invented the modern dartboard with the number system we’re seeing today, setting up a foundation for the official game rules.
The 20th Century: Across Borders
The first darts organization was established in the 1920s and it hosted the first “News of the World Competition” in 1927. More than 250,000 people participated annually in this tournament before World War II.
There are a lot of people who believe that after the Victorian era and World War II, darts “made it” internationally. As military soldiers from all around the world learned about darts during the war and then brought it back to their own countries, the sport swiftly exploded in popularity.
A game of Darts – Source from Flickr
In 1935, Nodor (this company now owns Winmau) launched their original bristle dartboard and it was a huge success.
The dartboard with the clock format also became the norm during this period. In 1984, Nodor continued to find success by producing the first staple-free bull’s-eye dartboard (called Supabull). Go back a little bit. In 1954, the National Darts Association of Great Britain was established as a unit in charge of organizing tournaments (from small to large sizes) across the country.
Around the 1960s and 1970s, the News of the World Individual Darts Championship was broadcast on television and widely received by the audience. Darts celebrities emerged and became a thing, opening a new chapter of the sport’s history.
In 1973, the British Darts Organization (BDO) was formed and gradually took the position of the National Darts Association of Great Britain. The BDO was also a founding member of the World Darts Federation in 1976.
In 1993, the Split in Darts happened. Some of the best professional darts players in the British Darts Organization broke away and started the World Darts Council, which later became the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). The reason was reported to be they were not satisfied with the BDO’s way of running pro darts tournaments.
Both the PDC and the BDO have put a lot of effort into making darts a sport, from hosting many professional competitions like the World Championships to promoting and building communities. As a result, darts was officially recognized as a sport by British Sport on March 25, 2005.
The PDC is now considered the most well-known and successful darts organization in the world, after the collapse of the British Darts Organization in September 2020.
Darts has a long yet very interesting history, from the military to the pubs in different regions of England, and then all over the world. It is now recognized as a sport in many countries, backed up by many official organizations, and even brings a significant amount of income for professionals. Don’t forget to share these insights with your darts fellows the next time you play!
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