Tug of War is one oldest games known to man with its history dating back to the ancient world.  Known by a number of different names including rope pulling, tugging war and war of tug, it continues to remain a popular sport that pits the strengths of two teams against each other and is practiced in some form in almost every country in the world.

And whilst it’s no longer recognised by the International Olympics Committee (despite much lobbying from various associations worldwide) – it’s a sport that’s widely enjoyed across the UK, with over 100 pullers involved in the national league. 

With the season for pulling just about to get under way, Devon County Show talked to Team Captain Jessie Shaddick from Team Anstey, last year’s winners of the Devon County Show competition and who is currently in full training mode, pulling out all the stops to get her team in prime condition for the Tug of War competitions which will be held at Devon County Show 2023 at 1pm on Saturday 20th May. 

‘We’ve got eight women on our team and we train religiously once a week.  We normally perform in around 6/8 competitions per year, and we’ve just been crowned second in the overall FWA (Far Western Area) league.  We currently only compete in the South West league but we’re hoping to progress to the national league later this year.  Watch this space. 

We compete primarily because we love it.  Every team member is part of the young farming community which can be a lonely existence.  Getting together once a week means we get to socialise which is so important.  But the physical aspect is also great for mental health as pulling really gets the endorphins fired up. 

We’re all pretty sporty individuals.  We normally all get together to do local Race for Life Events, and two  of our team members, just successfully completed the London Marathon.  Molly said it was the hardest thing she’s ever done and is still wearing slippers to work!

The rules for Tug of War are very simple. Each team needs to pull on the rope until the marker crosses onto one of the teams’ side. The marker (white tape) is in the middle of the rope.  What it does require is a huge amount of collaborative strength.  A team like ours will be pulling against the weight of 580-620kg.

If we fall, we can’t sit down for too long and there’s no cursing permitted on the rope (difficult when you’re under such pressure).  If you do, you risk disqualification.  But there is strategy involved.  We employ a rhythm so we can pull the rope effectively.

The girls and I like to psych ourselves up for a pull by listening to music.  I’m a massive country music fan so it’s mandatory for the girls to sing along to Jolene by Dolly Parton on the coach to a competition whether they like it or not. 

The most ideal weather conditions for a Tug of War are dry and sunny – so that’s what we’re hoping for on Saturday 20th May at the competition.   But hey, we live in England and you can pull in any weather, we just mind fall over more often and get very muddy and the audience always enjoys that.’

The Tug of War competition take place at 1pm on Saturday 20th May at Devon County Show 2023.  Tickets are available now at www.devoncountyshow.co.uk. Two under 16s go free with a paying adult on Saturday.


Further information available from:  Heloise D’Souza, Press Officer, Devon County Show, Tel: 07770 988 612