Zorra Tug-of-War Heritage

The tug of war has long been known as a feat of strength and endurance, teamwork and focus, separating the iron men from the rest of us. It has been used in sporting competitions for hundreds of years and still, to this day, it is considered a great measure of strength.

chicago world fair

Back in 1893, in the heat of the blazing August sun, five farmers had travel over 600 kilometres from their homes to attend a competition of might. The Embro farmers stood waiting the moment where they would meet their arch rivals from Chicago at the World’s Fair in the same city in the tug of war competition. The trip had been long and hot along a dusty dry road and they had struggled to make the journey knowing that they were heading somewhere to uphold their long established reputation for winning the event over the last 20 years.

The Zorra farmers knew that their reputation was on the line and they need to win on that day. Between the five of them, they boasted an average weight of about 200 lbs and they were aware that they would be outweighed by the competition. In addition, all of the men were approaching the age of 50 which in 1893 and at this event, was not the norm.

When they arrived the teams set about to haggle about the rules, with the Chicago team declaring that the belt worn by the Zorra anchorman was not within regulations. Tempers were short and the teams were impatient and the event was being delayed further by this detail. Bob McIntosh, the Zorra anchor was obviously making the American team feel somewhat vulnerable and this was their way of trying to minimize their fear. McIntosh was a crowd favourite that had won over crowds at numerous fairs in many cities with his trick of winning in a tug of war against two horses.

The decision was finally made that neither team would wear a belt so at last they began their pulls to vie for the championship. The Zorras assumed their grip on the wiry rope and dug their heels into the ground, shifting their weight backward to take as much advantage as the leverage as possible. The pulling began and they worked hard to gain a single inch in the competition and then to hold onto it. They pulled again, gaining a bit more. In just over five minutes, the Zorras had pulled more than two feet in their direction to win the round.

In the second pull of the day, the competition was set on more solid ground where the team could not use their strategy to dig into the earth and the weightier Americans took that pull within minutes.

As the sun was beginning to set, the teams set up for their final contest, and this time they were again situated in softer dirt. The Zorras set their stance and the crowd fell to a hush as they watched and when the signal was called, the Zorras stretched backwards into the pull. Both teams set their jaws and struggled against each other to fight for a decision in their favour. The teams strained to exhaustion and the pull continued, each giving it 150 percent. As they were feeling their muscles tremble, a piper began to sound a familiar refrain. That was the cue that the Zorras needed to drive them to give it once last burst of strength and they defeated the Americans, going down in tug of war history.

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