Fox tossing was an aristocratic pastime of the 17th century, truly a case of the unmentionable tossing the uneatable. The aim of the game was to launch the fox as high as possible in the air. The highest recorded height was 7.5 meters.
An engraving of German aristocrats engaged in the sport of fox tossing (Fuchsprellen, lit. ‘fox bouncing’ ). SourceThis entertainment was often carried out by a courting couple standing 20-25 feet apart holding the end of slings made of netting of fabric known as prellgarn or prelltuch (“bouncing cloth”). When the unsuspecting fox stepped onto the sling, the couple yanked it tight and it up in the air.
The “sport” may have had it roots in ancient superstition: the fox stood in for the malign winter spirit who was thrown in the air until it was dead!
At a famous contest held in Dresden by Augustus the Strong (1694-1733), 687 foxes, 533 hares, 34 badgers, and 21 wildcats were tossed to their death. The 34 young boars released at the end delighted the audience because of the great havoc they committed in and around ladies’ hoop skirts.
Guide for Hate Lovers to Promote Their Enjoyment
Cruel pastimes were hardly unusual in the 17th and 18th century.
The Handbuch für Hetzliebhaber (1794), wonderfully translated as Guide for Hate Lovers to Promote Their Enjoyment, describes the staging of animal combats between lions, leopards, bears, wolves, and lynx in Vienna.
In return for a free seat, your own pooch could join in the battles.
In a masquerade version of fox tossing, the costumed participants dressed the foxes up as caricatures of unpopular figures or in “bits of cardboard, gaudy cloth, and tinsel”.
I think we can agree, a fine group of tossers.
If you liked this, you might enjoy Magnificent Victorian Beards and the lengths they went to get them.
By Edward Brooke-Hitching
By Tim Blanning
By Howard L. Blackmore