A Brief History of Darts

When you think of a word pub, there is a fair chance that some of your first associations are a pint of lager, drunk patrons cheering for their favourite football team during a match and, of course, darts. 

But how did this fairly simple, yet entertaining sport become so popular that we can’t really imagine a modern pub without a dartboard hanging on its wall, and what are its origins? How did it become so famous that today we have professional darts players and championships?

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of darts and the game’s connection to medieval warriors.

Darts — a Warrior’s Pastime

The modern game of darts probably has its roots in medieval times. It is widely believed that early variant of darts appeared somewhere around 700 years ago, in the 1300s. 

The story says that, between battles, bored soldiers competed among each other by throwing arrows, arrowheads, spearheads and other sharp objects at the upturned wine casks. When wine casks were in short supply, they started using tree trunks which naturally had sectioned tree rings, and this served to better show the competitor’s accuracy.

These sorts of games were actually encouraged by the higher ranking officers at the time since they allowed soldiers to practice accuracy in their spare time instead of getting drunk, fighting among themselves, or causing other types of troubles. 

From Soldiers to Courts and Commoners

Since soldiers enjoyed playing darts (and most of them were commoners), the common people followed in the trend and soon adopted the game as well.

Soon after this, the new game reached the nobility of England, and from domestic courts, it spread to the upper class of other countries. The legend says that the game became so popular that Anne Boleyn, the wife of King Henry VIII, gifted him a set of exquisitely crafted darts.

By the 1800s, the game reached such popularity that many regional variants of the game existed with their own set of rules. Somewhere around 1844, there was also a type of darts called ‘Puff and Dart’ which consisted of using a blowpipe to launch the darts and the dartboard, but that one didn’t really catch on.

Modern Darts and Standardized Rules

Although many variants of dartboards existed over time, the concept that we all know today was invented in 1896 by Brian Gamlin, a carpenter from Lancashire. His numbering system brought one of the most important changes to the game, as it tends to eliminate the possibility of lucky shots. This is due to the fact that the highest and smallest numbers are so close to each other. If you aim for the 20 and you aren’t very precise, you are likely to hit 1 or 5.

The first organized Championships began in the 1920s, and the National Darts Association was established in 1924. During the 1980s, first darts celebrities emerged to scene, and these days, many championships are held every year, with hundreds of participants and big prizes.

Next time you are in a pub, holding a pint in your hand and aiming at the dartboard, think of the game’s humble beginnings and allow yourself to feel like a true warrior.

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