The History of the United States Amateur Tug of War Association

Robert Pulfer of Verona, Wisconsin formed the United States Amateur Tug of War Association in 1978.  Bob, a native of Switzerland had visited his homeland and had witnessed the World Championships of Tug of War.  Bob came back to the States excited to form an organization enabling the USA to compete in the Tug of War International Federation World Championships.  Bob formed a committee to help organize the group.  This group became a recognized organization in the state of Wisconsin and soon USATOWA became a recognized member of TWIF.

The first year the Association sent a team to the World Championships was in 1978.  These Championships were held in Dundalk Ireland.  The team consisted of members from the Black Hawk Tug of War League.  The Black Hawks represented the USA in two Open classes at the Championship.  The desire to compete on the World level fueled the teams of USATOWA.  The USA has had teams in the World Championships every year since 1978. 

Tug of War was one of the founding sports of the World Games.  The USA hosted the World Games in 1981.  USATOWA has had representation in the World Games since that date.

USATOWA has had great success in the Outdoor World Championships with medals won in the 1986, 1990, 1998, 2002 and 2004.  World Games medals were won in 1993 and 2001.  Indoor Tug of War teams have won medals in 2002, 2004 and 2006.  In 2002 the International Olympic Committee recognized TWIF.  This is the first recognition of the IOC since the removal of the sport from the games in 1920.  

USATOWA hosted the 1984, 1998, 2004 and 2014 World Championships.  All of these accomplishments came from the desire to compete on the World level.

The first members to compete in the 1978 World Championships were:

Dave Outhouse, Gary Wille, Larry Clements, Tony Schmitt, Dave Etkcher, Randy Hanson, Keith Dieter,

Mark Mayer, Dave Wahl, Steve Acker, Leo Spahn, Rod Voss, Craig Rhiner, Jon Onsager, Tom Naatz, Armand Meier, Rudy Kopp – Manager, Glen Johnson – Coach, Robert Pulfer –Founder and President of the USATOWA, Norman Legler – Supporter, Kathy Meier – Supporter and Kevin Speich – Substitute.

At the 1978 Championship, friendships were formed with the Northern Ireland team.  In 1979 the Ballyhagen team came to the USA.  They were the first European team in over 75 years to visit the USA.  USATOWA bestowed the honor of Honorary Lifetime Members to this club. 

Honorary Lifetime members of this club:

Cathal McKeever, Noel Collins, Leo Collins, Ken Hill, Ken Crousier, Robert Campbell, Patrick Kernan, Patrice Ogorman, Sean Cunningham, Shamus Cunningham, Marty Lavery, Frank Powell, Ernie Hartley, Billy Bernard and Alan Walker.

The United States Amateur Tug of War Association has many accomplishments in our 40 years of existence.   

Tug-of-War History

Also known as tug o’ war, tug war, rope war,rope pulling, or tugging war, tug-of-war is a sport that directly pits two teams against each other in a test of strength. 

The sport of tug-of-war has a very long history.  Artwork in a 4000-year-old tomb in Sakkara, Egypt depicts teams of 3 young men pitted against each other in the ropeless version of tug-of-war. This practice, with or without the rope was carried over into many civilizations, often under ritual forms, such as Burma(Myanmar), Congo, Korea, India, Indonesia, Hawaii, New Guinea, and New Zealand. In Korea, local villages used tug of war to settle disputes for centuries.  Each village or township made a straw rope of prescribed thickness and length. On the day of the contest, the team representatives, sometimes numbering as many as a hundred, brought the rope to the chosen site.  All of the ropes were then connected and the tug of war began. One side of the rope was considered female and the other side male. It was hoped that the female side won as it was symbolic of a good harvest. As a side note, tug of war is depicted on one of the few commemorative coins, the 5,000 won, minted for the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Tug of war in ancient Greece was practiced both as a competition and as a physical exercise in order to train for other sports. At the courts of the Chinese emporers, around 1200 A.D., teams specifically trained for tug of war competed against each other in tournaments. The Chinese used the Main rope and many side ropes. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Sport was widespread across Aisa. Records exist in Mongolia and Turkey. In medieval Europe, Viking warriors pulled animal skins over open pits of fire, a test of strength and endurance that prepared them for battle. In India, tug-of-war is depicted on a relief found on the Sun Temple of Konark, which was built in the12th Century A.D. detail of relief appears below.In the 15th century, tug of war tournaments was frequently held in Scandinavia and later in the remainder of Western Europe. The modern version of tug-of-war may have descended from sailors on British naval ships, and later those on trading ships traveling to and from India with perishables such as tea. The men on early naval ships maneuvered the ships by pulling on ropes that adjusted the ship’s sails. The sailors on the fast trading ship, the Cutty Sark, were observed in 1889, while docked in Sydney Harbor, Australia, by a young army officer who on a troop ship on his way to India. He watched the sailors pulling a form of tug of war on the deck while their ship was becalmed. The boson explained that it was a way of keeping the crews fit, and from the rivalry and great pleasure that the men got from it, he decided to put his men to it, to keep them fit on the long sea journey from England to India.  In India, the army put it on the grass, and it quickly became a source of a great rivalry between regiments. It became the favorite sport of the other ranks, who brought it back to England. On leaving the army they took it with them into the police forces and the Fire brigades, and into the factories. Soon it spread across the whole country, displacing anything that had been before.

The name Tug-O-War may come from those crews that hauled on the ropes to power the Man-O-War Ships. Tug of war became an organized sport at the end of the 19th century when clubs were formed. When the Olympic Games were revived, tug-of-war was featured on the program of the Paris Olympic Games in 1900. International rules became necessary. They still exist today having undergone very slight modifications. Tug-of-war was always contested as a part of the track and field athletics program, although it is now considered a separate sport. The Olympic champions were as follows: 1900: a combined Swedish/Danish team; 1904: an American club team representing the Milwaukee Athletic Club; 1906: Germany/Switzerland; 1908: a British team from the City of London Police Club; 1912: Sweden; and 1920: Great Britain. After the 1920 Games, the International Olympic Committee trimmed the competition program and tug of war’s participation was canceled. As tug-of-war was no longer on the Olympic Programme, national athletic and gymnastic associations were not very interested in a tug of war as a discipline. The tug-of-war teams, at that time, felt that they had to establish their own autonomous association. The first association was founded in Sweden in 1933. Other countries followed including Great Britain in 1958 and the Netherlands in 1959.

The Tug-of-War International Federation (TWIF) was formed in 1960 to govern the sport on an international level, under the stewardship of George Hutton of the Great Britain Association and Rudolf Ullmark of Sweden. The First TWIF Meeting was in Sweden in 1964. The first modern International Event was at the Baltic games in 1964. TWIF organized its first European Championships in London at Crystal Palace in 1965. After non-European countries had also joined the international federation, TWIF held its first World Championships in 1975 in the Netherlands. The female competition was first organized at the World Championships in 1986. The sport of Tug of War has been included in World Games from the
first event in Santa Clara, the U.S.A. in 1981, The World Games includes sports which are not included in the Olympic Programme. History of USATOWA The United States Amateur Tug of War Association
(USATOWA) was formed in 1978. Its members are located primarily in the upper Midwest. The USATOWA sent its first team to compete in the 
World Championships in 1978.