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The Long-Forgotten Sport of Fox Tossing

Fox Tossing

Forget jump rope.

And say no to bondage.

Here’s how to really have fun with a rope.

Or at least how people in 17th and 18th century Europe used to.

Fox Tossing, known in Germany as Fuchsprellen (like you really need to know that), involved tossing a fox in the air with, you guessed it, a rope. Like most blood sports of the time, it was an expensive hobby and one generally practiced only by the aristocracy and upper class.

Hey man, foxes and rope cost money!

And in a, “They were way ahead of their time concerning women’s rights moment,” the sport was extremely popular with both men and women, and even couples played.

And here’s how they played.

An arena was set up with either wood or canvas walls. Spectators sat or stood around this outer wall while two individuals stood in the arena on either end of a rope, roughly 20 to 25 feet in length. Each person held the end of the rope in his or her hands with the length in between laid flat on the ground. At the signal, a fox (or cat, boar, hare, or wolf, but mostly fox) was let into the arena. The frightened animal would run forward, and when it came over the rope, the two persons manning the rope would pull it tight, thus tossing the animal in the air. The higher the toss, the better. If done correctly, the animal would return to the earth with a vertebrae-cracking thud. Of course, the real entertainment occurred if the animal’s neck didn’t break upon impact. At this point, the animal was either scared to death and ran or was so pissed off it charged one of the two individuals who tossed it in the first place. This was often hoped for by the crowd because who doesn’t want to watch an aggravated and probably suffering from motion sickness vermin rip into its aggressor?

How bad could these attacks be?

Glad you asked.

One journalist covering an event where wildcats were tossed wrote that the enraged kitties “do not give a pleasing kind of sport, for if they cannot bury their claws and teeth in the faces or legs of the tossers, they cling to the tossing-slings for dear life, and it is next to impossible to give one of these animals a skillful toss.”

Another reason not to like cats.

Animals that survived their fall and didn’t attack were driven back across the rope to hopefully be tossed once more. A good toss could launch a fox or smaller animal upwards of more than 20 feet in the air. Variations of the sport included having multiple ropes and tossers in the arena and sometimes coinciding the event with some sort of masquerade. Cuz if you’re gonna toss animals in the air, why not go the extra mile to dress up as a Roman warrior, jester, centaur, or the like?

Fox Tossing was often a daylong or nightlong affair with multiple animals being tossed. To give you an idea of the grandeur that was Fox Tossing, consider that at a toss held by Augustus II the Strong, the King of Poland in 1648, 647 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers and 21 wildcats were tossed and killed.

Now folks…

That’s a party.

Fox Tossing was ruled barbaric in the early 19th century and banned throughout Europe and most of the free world. Alas, the days of launching cute fuzzy animals into the stratosphere for kicks is long, long gone.

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