Hashing . . . it’s a mixture of athleticism and sociability, running and drinking but most of all, it’s a refreshing break from the nine-to-five routine. Hashing is an exhilaratingly fun combination of running, orienteering, and partying, where bands of harriers and harriettes (aka hounds) chase hares on two to five mile-long trails through town, country, forest, desert, and/or frozen wasteland all in search of exercise, camaraderie, and good times.
Hashing began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 1938, when a group of British businessmen and colonial types founded a running club called the Hash House Harriers. They named the group after their meeting place, the Selangor Club, nicknamed the “Hash House.”
Hash House Harrier runs were patterned after the traditional British paper chase. A “hare” was given a head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, all the while pursued by a shouting pack of “harriers.” Only the hare knew where he was going – the harriers followed his clues to stay on trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and solving the clues, reaching the end was its own reward. There, thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced-down beer.Hashing died out during World War II (Japanese occupying forces being notoriously anti-fun) but picked up in the post-war years, spreading through the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, then exploding in popularity in the mid-70’s.
Today there are thousands of Hash House Harrier clubs, called “kennels”, in all parts of the world, with newsletters, directories, and even regional, national and world hashing conventions, known as Interhashes. Hashing hasn’t strayed far from its Kuala Lumpur roots, though each kennel holds its own traditions, which may be unique to them.
A typical hash today is a loosely-organized group of 10-40 men and/or women who meet semi-regularly to chase the hare. We follow a trail of chalk, flour, or paper, and the trails are never boring – we run woodland trails, city streets and back alleyways, but we also ford streams, climb fences, explore storm drains, and scale cliffs. And although some of today’s health-conscious hashers may shun a cold beer in favor of water or a diet soda, trail’s end is still a party.
Still confused? Here’s a short video for all you visual/auditory learners…
Need more? Here are some sites to read up on the history…
The Hash House – a history of the early years
More details – from the Central Coast Hash House Harriers, NSW, Australia