Zorra Tug-of-War Heritage

From farm fields to Chicago World’s Fair

Zorra farmers become world Tug-of-War Champions

Rear L to R
Alex Clarke, Robert McLeod, Ira Hummason
Front row
William Munro, Captain Ebeneezer Sutherland, Robert McIntosh

More than 600 kilometers from home, the five Embro area farmers were standing in the blazing sun, waiting for the final round in the world championship tug-of-war event at the Chicago World’s fair. It was August 2, 1893, and they were about to meet their old rivals, the U.S. championship team from Chicago.

It had been a hot, dusty trip and they had traveled somewhat reluctantly. The Zorra team had been organized in the late 1870s, and had established a reputation for out-pulling heavier teams.

The Zorra farmers would have to live up to that reputation, if they hoped to win today. Their average weight was only 200 pounds, much lighter than their Chicago opponents. Also, the Zorra men were all nearing 50, relatively old for this event.

There had been some wrangling over the rules, and tempers were frayed. The Americans insisted that big Bob McIntosh, the 215-pound Zorra anchorman, could not use his particular style of anchor belt.

McIntosh was no doubt considered a particular threat by the U.S. team. Many times, he had thrilled crowds at fall fairs by demonstrating that no two horses could pull him from his position once he had dug in his cleats.

It was finally decided that neither team’s anchorman would use a belt of any kind that day. The first of three pulls for the championship would begin.

The Zorras took the strain of the great rope and at the signal they fell back, their boots sinking into the dirt as they pulled. With a mighty heave they gained an inch. They held it. Then they took another inch.

In six minutes they had gained two feet, and won the first pull.

The second pull was held on hard ground. The Zorra team could not effectively dig in, and the heavier Chicago team had a decisive advantage, winning in two minutes.

It was now dusk, and the third and final pull was again held on the softer black earth.

The Zorras dug in hard. The crowd fell quiet as the Zorra team flattened out on the signal.

Amazingly, the length of time of the final pull was not recorded, but many spectators claimed it was the greatest ever witnessed.

Both teams were giving it their all. Just as they were nearing exhaustion, it is said a lone piper began to play.

The Zorra team, drawing on muscle and stamina built by hard work in woods and fields, rallied against their heavier opponents. They pulled their way to victory and a place in history.