History of Darts - How was the sport invented, Evolution and Current state

History of Darts
Where and How it Started

History of Darts

The modern game of darts as we know it has been around for over 100 years. While this figure is impressive, it pales in comparison to the fact that other forms of the game have been around since medieval times.

The origin of darts is a bit unclear, but no matter how the game came to be, we can all agree on how much fun a round of darts is.

Darts In Medieval Period

Source: Wikipedia

Medieval Beginnings

As mentioned, the origin of darts can be hard to pinpoint. Still, historians all agree darts originated in England sometime during the 1300s.

It is said that soldiers began throwing spears and arrows at targets during their downtime, either to have fun or to sharpen their skills. Others say that King Henry VIII ordered his archers to practice their aim by throwing arrows at targets.

Whatever the reason for starting this target practice may be, these soldiers would use upturned barrels as their target. When they ran out of barrels, one innovative soldier decided to use a slice of a tree trunk as their target.

This soldier's name is lost to history, but his creative thinking paved the way to the modern version of the game today. The natural rings and crack in the wood allowed the soldiers to aim for different sections.

Soldiers Playing Darts

Darts And Royalty

These soldiers loved their game so much that they brought it home with them and shared it with their friends and family. England is infamous for its dreary weather, so it's not surprising that the game was innovated to bring indoors. Spears and arrows were shortened to appear more like the modern dart.

This game was so popular that even royalty began playing the game. King Henry VIII was an avid player of darts. When it was known that the king enjoyed this game, the rest of high society began playing as well to keep up appearances. Their darts were generally encrusted with jewels or made from precious materials such as ivory.

King Henry VIII was an avid darts player

Darts In The Early 1900s

The version of darts that we have come to know and love is credited to a carpenter from Lancashire, England. This man's name is Brian Gamlin, and he created the number system on dartboards that we use today. The ordering of the numbers reduces the chance of a "lucky shot", ensuring players will need precision and skill if they want to win. Sadly, Brian passed away before he could patent his invention.

The twentieth century saw an explosion in the popularity of darts in England. In 1920, the first organized darts championship was held, and four years later, the National Darts Association was formed.

By the 1930s, nearly 300,000 darts players had entered to play in the national championship.

Darts In America

Much like the origin of darts, British soldiers brought the game abroad with them during WWII. In fact, the government issued the soldiers darts to lift their spirits during their downtime.

It was during this time that darts was introduced to other parts of the world, including America, New Zealand, and Australia.

John Lowe Dart Player

Darts did not become popular in America until after the 1940s. For this reason, many speculate that it was the British soldiers mentioned above responsible for bringing the beloved pastime to America.

However, there is evidence to suggest that crude versions of the game were brought over on the Mayflower. After all, the original game of darts did not involve the intricate numbering system, and throwing something pointy at a barrel is not a novel idea. 

The Native Americans were also known to have played a similar version of the sport long before any Englishmen came to America.

World Darts Federation

Walk into any local pub, and you are sure to find a dart team or even an official dart league. For many, this sport is a fun hobby, and these leagues give friends an excuse to get together. Like any sport, though, there are players who rise above the rest.

 World Darts Federation Logo

In 1974, 14 people came together and created the World Darts Federation (WDF). WDF was designed to set a standard, uniform set of rules for darts and also to give elite players the chance to test their skills against the best of the best. The WDF holds continental championships in Europe, Asia, and America.

The winners of these tournaments earn themselves the title of being the best darts player in their region.

Outside of these prestigious games, are a slew of other smaller tournaments held throughout the world. The WDF recognizes and ranks these tournaments, but are not directly involved in their set up.

Some of the more notable tournaments are the Seacoast Open, hosted in America with a grand prize of $25,400. Even more impressive is the BDO World Trophy Tournament with a whopping prize of £80,000.

Not bad for playing a game of darts, right?

World Championship

The World Darts Federation also holds a worldwide championship to single the very best of the best. The winner of this distinguished tournament earns themselves the title of being the best darts player in the world.

WDF represents players from 70 different countries spanning from Japan in the far East to Nigeria, Estonia, and to the Bahamas.

One look at the leader board shows an even mix of champions from all over the world, with only slightly more English champions. After all, they did invent the game.

Deta Hedman deserves mention as she was the number one darts player in the world for an impressive six years in a row, spanning between 2010 and 2015.

And, surprise, surprise, she's English.

A Final Note

Darts is an exciting sport for any skill level, and the best part about the game is how portable it is! Good luck setting up a billiards or Foosball table in your living room, or even coming up with the money to buy one.

A set of darts and a dartboard are inexpensive and convenient to set up in almost any location.

Though, we don't recommend setting it up near anything valuable.

Kevin James
 

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