Skip to Main Content

For those who enjoyed the quirkiness of Schott's Miscellany, the erudition of The Etymologicon or the extremes of The Dangerous Book for Boys, this is the ideal read.
'Perfect book for the Christmas stockings of adults and curious children' Wall Street Journal
'An entertaining new book… which looks back at the most bizarre sporting activities ever devised by mankind' Daily Mail


From Flagpole Sitting to Hot Cockles, Edward Brooke-Hitching has researched through piles of dusty tomes to bring vividly back to life some of the most curious, dangerous and downright bizarre sports and pastimes that mankind has ever devised, before thinking better of it and erasing it from the memory. After all, who would ever want to bring back Fox Tossing, a popular sport for men and women in 17th-century Germany? As the name suggests, it would involve dozens of couples pairing up and standing 20-25 feet apart in an enclosed field, each holding one end of a net, and then they would pull hard at both ends as the fox ran past, sending it flying high into the air.

There are many other sports revealed within these pages that are unlikely ever to make an appearance on our TV screens, such as Firework Boxing, which is just as dangerous as it sounds. Meanwhile, Ski Ballet may not have been so risky, but Suzy 'Chapstick' Chaffee's signature move - the Suzy Split (a complete forward split while balanced on the tips of her skis) - was probably not one to try at home.

An intriguing, entertaining and occasionally shocking insight into the vivid imaginations of mankind across the years, Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports is an unforgettable read.

Photograph © Alex Anstey

Edward Brooke-Hitching is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling trilogy: The Phantom Atlas (2016), The Golden Atlas (2018) and The Sky Atlas (2019), all of which have been translated into numerous languages; he is also the author of Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports (2015). He is a writer for the BBC series QI. A fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an incurable cartophile, he lives surrounded by dusty heaps of old maps and books in London. 

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (June 1, 2016)
  • Length: 272 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781471148996

Browse Related Books

'An entertaining new book… which looks back at the most bizarre sporting activities ever devised by mankind.' 

– Daily Mail

'A lively trawl through long-forgotten sports and games from around the globe.' 

– The Economist

'Perfect book for the Christmas stockings of adults and curious children.' 

– Wall Street Journal

'An engaging book on sports that have fallen out of favour' 

– Tatler

'A strange and strangely enjoyable new book. . . This inventory of failed sports is both compelling and affectionate, fitting for a book in which "eccentricity" is not just included but celebrated.' 

– The Boston Globe

'[A] droll romp through the history of bizarre games and other pastimes.' 

– Library Journal

'An entertaining look at the way things were.' 

– Washington Post

'[An] intriguing, go-to guide on the weird and wonderful activities of years gone by' 

– Irish Examiner

More books from this author: Edward Brooke-Hitching