Dakota Datebook

North Dakota Curling

Friday, December 11, 2009


The Lake Region Curling Club of Devils Lake is holding their annual Northern Lights Open Bonspiel today through Sunday. Although curling is not a familiar part of every North Dakotan’s vocabulary, the sport has a long history and a very active following in the state. The object of the game is to slide a large, heavy disk across an icy rink in an attempt to get closer to the target, or “button,” than one’s opponents.
Curling is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, mainly due to its recent inclusion in the Winter Olympics. During the last two games, curling led the television ratings, and during the 2006 games, it was the third-most searched topic on MSN.com. Despite its recent attraction, its roots go back to at least the 16th century, and possibly further. It is during the 1500s that the game is first documented in Scotland, both archaeologically and historically. However, there has been some debate as to who first invented the game, since the terms used by players share both Scottish and Continental European roots.
Whether or not they invented the game, no one would argue that it was the Scots that made curling what it is today, inventing rules and forming clubs during the 18th century. Scottish emigrants brought curling to Canada in the 1760s, when soldiers began melting down cannonballs in order to fashion the “irons” necessary for the game. “Irons” are the large disks thrown by curlers down the ice; today, irons are most often made of granite and weigh between 42 and 44 pounds.
The first curling club in the world was founded in 1804 in Scotland, but only three years later, a club was established in Montreal. Curling gained enormous popularity in Canada, especially in Winnipeg. From there, it funneled south into the northern Midwestern states, where the cold winters provided ample opportunity to hold numerous “bonspiels,” as the tournaments are referred to.
The first curling club in North Dakota was founded in Drayton in 1901, and was aptly called the Dacotah Curling Club. The Club claims that curling became popular as a form of socialization and exercise during harsh winter months, when travel became difficult and farm work slowed. Since that time, fourteen additional clubs have formed across the state. If you’ve ever been interested in trying a sport that has been played for over five-hundred years, you’re in luck to find one right here in North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job


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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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