Not only does the Swaton, England-based World Egg Throwing Federation consider egg throwing a very real sport—even if Sport England rejected their bid for recognition—they consider it a practice with historic roots.
In 1322, so the story goes, Swaton’s new abbot was the only resident who owned chickens. To encourage his parishioners to attend church, he doled out eggs. When the river flooded, barring residents from attending church, the monks threw the eggs over the river. From there, it apparently became good, wholesome fun that townspeople partook in for the next 700 years.
In 2004, the World Egg Throwing Federation convened to regulate the sport. All eggs used in competition, for example, must come from organically fed, free-range, sustainable, and “happy” sources. The regulatory organization remains based in the town where it apparently all began, still a rural village of about 80 brick houses and the 13th-century St. Michael’s church.
Each year, the organization hosts the World Egg Throwing Championship during Swaton Vintage Day, a celebration originally meant to showcase vintage vehicles. Though the festival, which began in 1994, predates the egg throwing competition, the egg extravaganza has assumed prominence, attracting competitors from around the world. Some, like the New Zealand duo that tossed an egg the farthest in 2017, competed in egg tosses in their home countries before taking their talents to the green pastures of Swaton.
Egg throwers can compete in five categories. In the egg throwing event, teams of two throw and catch an egg over greater and greater distances. In the egg static relay, a team of 11 throwers must pass a dozen eggs down the line as quickly as possible. In egg trebuchet, teams construct machines based on ancient trebuchet designs and launch eggs at a far-away team member. In egg target throwing, competitors earn points by hitting certain areas on a volunteer (human) target.
Russian egg roulette—what the World Egg Throwing Federation calls “a trial of nerves”—involves two competitors choosing from the six eggs in front of them and smashing them against their forehead one by one. Five are hard-boiled; one is raw. The first competitor to find the raw egg loses—and smashes runny yolk on his or her forehead.
In 2017, the Russian egg roulette winner, Julie Moens, revealed some strategy: “ I went up there and listened to the eggs and let the eggs tell me which one to pick.”
Like any serious sport, the use of performance-enhancing drugs is prohibited. The Swaton Microbrewery Happy Jack ale, on the other hand, “is a permitted and indeed recommended substance,” the World Egg Throwing Federation says.