Hash House Harrier roots extend back to the old English schoolboy game of “Hares and Hounds,” in which players, called “hounds,” chase others, called “hares,” who have left a trail of paper scraps along a route across fields, forests, hills and streams (modern-day hares drop a trail of flour). One of the earliest Hares and Hounds events on record was the “Crick Run” at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1837.
The Original “Hash House,” Kuala Lumpur, circa 1938.
Hares and Hounds as an adult sport began in the fall of 1867 with a group of London oarsmen who wanted to keep fit during the winter. Also called “Paper Chasing” or the “Paper Chase,” the game became very popular after its introduction on Wimbledon Common in 1868 by the Thames Hare and Hounds. Early clubs called themselves “Hares and Hounds” or simply “Harriers.”
The Hash House Harriers as it is known today was founded in Malaya (now Malaysia) by an English accountant, Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert (1903-1942). It was some time during 1937 when Gispert (or simply “G” as he was known to his friends) acquired a taste for the paper chase with the Springgit Harriers in Malacca.
Shortly after being transferred by his accounting firm to Kuala Lumpur, he gathered together a number of fellow expatriate businessmen to form a harrier group. The first run was held in December, 1938.
The group’s name came about primarily because local authorities required legal registration of the club.
While the “Kuala Lumpur Harriers” would have appeared a logical choice, “G” decided instead to use the nickname for the Selangor Club where a number of the local harriers lived and shared meals. Due to the lackluster food, the dining room was commonly referred to as the “Hash House.”
Hashing in Kuala Lumpur was suspended during World War II, but reestablished after peace returned. It wasn’t long before the hash began slowly spreading around the world. Former members of the original Hash House Harriers started a hash in 1947 near Milan, Italy, but it wasn’t until 1962 that the next group was formed in Singapore.
The Singapore Hash was gradually followed by others, until in 1973 there were approximately 35 hashes in 14 countries. In 1999 it was reported there were more than 1,700 hashes in 180 countries, including approximately 350 in the United States alone.
The philosophy of the original Hash House Harriers from the 1938 charter:
To promote physical fitness among our members.
To get rid of weekend hangovers.
To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer.
To persuade the older members they are not as old as they feel.