Marie Antoinette and her Two Children by Pierre Alexandre Wille
June 17, 2010
Sport: Fox Tossing
One sport that really took off among many European courts was Fox-tossing. Yes...fox-tossing. As the name implies, the sport is simple, yet challenging and to some- extremely fun.
To begin, you need a number of foxes. They would be caught and kept in small boxes. Then in a field, an area would be enclosed with thick canvas. This was a sport that court ladies took a large part in, (yes ladies could play!) and it requires teams of two. Sometimes two ladies would team up and sometimes couples would be a team. Teams that were made up of couples had the tendency to be very competitive with their husband and wife rivals.
Each team was assigned a place within the canvas enclosure to stand, and they would hold between them a long 'sling' or piece of canvas (much longer than wide). The end of this sling had wooden handles for each team member to hold. The center of the sling rest on the ground between them. Once all teams were lined up with their slings, the boxes of foxes would be opened.
The panicked creatures would spring from their dark box, into the sun and surrounded by the noisy onlookers. They ran between the team mates leaping over the canvas slings which lay on the ground. This was a sport of skill and coordination. At just the right moment, as a fox leaped over the canvas sling, both team members needed to give a great tug on their end, tightening the sling between them, and if done properly catching the fox at the right moment so it was propelled upwards into the air.
With enough practice you could toss a fox quite high, a team of men could get a fox up to twenty five feet in the air. (over 7.6 meters!)
The ground was coated with a soft sand or sawdust material to give the fox a more cushioned landing, and ensure the game last longer than one toss per fox. Once the fox landed, it would either start to run again or be stunned momentarily. The foxes that were stunned were slaughtered on the spot. Once all the animals were slaughtered, the game was over. Points went to couples who had successful tosses.
The sport later morphed, and ladies and gentlemen dressed up in masquerade like clothing to participate. Even the foxes were dressed in costume, with tinsel and fabric. Some were disguised as unpopular persons of the time. After these elaborate games (shows?) the members of the court would have a masquerade ball or extravagant play. Quite the sporting experience.