In pre-industrial settings such as fairs and carnivals, the wheelbarrow race took place on an open green or in a field, and blindfolded contestants raced each other in driving the wheelbarrow from a starting point to an agreed mark (Joseph Strutt, Sport and Pastimes of the People of England, 1801). It was more an entertainment than a contest, though, with most racers losing their way in ‘windings and wanderings’ that generated ‘much merriment’. As with other simple popular recreations, the wheelbarrow race resurfaced in the informal curriculum of schools in the 19th and 20th centuries, with one participant playing the wheelbarrow, walking on his or her hands as the legs are held by the barrow driver. The activity has also featured in novelty events as a cross between a knockabout entertainment and an endurance test.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.