Who invented curling?

Curling is a winter sport, typically played indoors on artificial ice-rinks, by two teams of four players. The object of the sport is to score points by sliding granite stones, or ‘rocks’, each of which weighs 19kg, or 44lb, across the playing surface, known as a curling ‘sheet’, to finish as close as possible to the centre of three concentric circles marked on the ice, known as the ‘house’. Each round, or ‘end’, of curling consists of eight stones for each team, with each player delivering two, while two team-mates brush, or sweep, the ice in front of the stone, if necessary, to make it slide further and straighter. The rotational spin of the stone may cause it to deviate, or ‘curl’, away from a straight line, which is where the name of the sport comes from.

Curling is believed to be one of the oldest team sport in the world, for all that its exact origin is unknown. Documentary evidence dating from c.1540 records a challenge between Gavin Hamilton, a representative of the Abbot of Paisley Abbey, in Renfrewshire in the Scottish Lowlands, and John Sclater, a junior monk. Likewise, the painting ‘Hunters in the Snow (Winter)’ by the Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder, which dates from 1565, depicts ice skating and other winter activities, one of which is almost certainly curling.

The national governing body for the sport of curling in Scotland, the Royal Caledonian Curling Club – which, nowadays, trades as Scottish Curling – was founded, as the ‘Grand Caledonian Curling Club’, in Edinburgh in 1838 and received royal approval from Queen Victoria four years later. By that stage, curling had already been exported to North America by Scottish émigrés, with the first curling club opening in Montreal, Canada in 1807. Curling became an Olympic sport at the first Winter Olympic Games in Chamonix, France in 1924, but was only recognised as such, retrospectively, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2006.

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