History of Curling and Its Place in the World

Curling has come a long way from the 16th century when hardy Scots slid odd-shaped rocks called ‘loafies’ on the frozen lochs and marshes of Scotland. Today the game is played indoors on meticulously prepared ice with polished 42-pound granite rocks that gleam like jewels as they rumble their way down towards brightly colored houses. It became an Olympic medal sport in 1998 at the Nagano games in Japan and proved to be extremely popular at the Salt Lake City games in 2002 We continue to see an upswing in interest every four years, coincident with the Winter Olympic Games.

Curling in the United States dates back to the 1830s when Scottish soldiers and settlers brought the game to Michigan. From there it spread northward into Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and other other states in the Curling Heartland of America, where it remains popular. Today there are over 15,000 curlers and 135 clubs in the U.S., most in the north central US. but also in about 20 or states. Still more clubs are forming in the wake of the Olympic popularity. The Kansas City Curling Club has a fascinating map of US clubs.

Around the world, over a million participate in the game in 35 countries, though 90% of those million curlers are in Canada, where the sport is an important part of the social and community fabric. Since many Canadians have found their way southward, a number of American clubs (especially ones outside the north central area) were started by Canadians, who continue to make major contributions to the development of the sport.

More curling history is available at the United States Curling Association website.

The history of the Potomac Curling Club is available here.

Written in 1890 by John Kerr, The History of Curling is often regarded as one of the comprehensive histories of the sport. This historic text is now publicly available thanks to Electronic Scotland, a website devoted to the history of all things Scotland. The electronic edition includes the book’s more than 400 pages along with its original illustrations and appendices. If you’ve ever wondered how the sport has changed over time or just interested in learning a few curling drinking poems, check out Electric Scotland’s history of curling.