Tug of War Rules

Tug of War
Photo credit: Johnmoore6 / Wikipedia.org

Tug of War is one of the most ancient games known to man and there is evidence that it was played across the ancient world including ancient Greece, Egypt and China. Also known as rope pulling, tugging war and war of tug, it remains today a popular sport that pits the strengths of two teams against each other and is practiced in some form in almost every country in the world.

Many of these countries have their own national governing bodies and there is an international body too known as the Tug of War International Federation which has over 50 countries affiliated with it.

The sport is played by both men and women, and historically was part of the Olympic Games between 1900 and 1920, but has not been included since this dates despite attempts to bring it back. There are many variations of Tug of War around the world including Sokatira in Spain’s Basque Country, Japan’s Tsunahiki, Indonesia’s Tarik Tambang and Korea’s Jul Parigi.

Object of the Game

Most Tug of War matches are completed in a best of three format, and the objective is to beat the competition and win the match by winning at least two of the three pulls in the match. Within each pull, the objective is to win by pulling the opposition and the opposition’s 4m marker towards the centre so that the mark passes the centre line, resulting in a win. It is not possible to tie a Tug of War match.

Players & Equipment

Each Tug of War team consists of 8 members, all of whom cooperate to pull the rope. Despite looking like quite a simple sport, there is some technicality to it, with team members utilising a rhythm to help pull the rope in an effective way. This is done with the help of a ‘driver’, who is not a member of the team but is in effect like a coach and they give orders of when to pull and when to rest from the sidelines.

The rope is the most important piece of equipment and this should be approximately 11 cm in circumference and should be at least 33.5m long with plain, whipped ends. Other pieces of equipment that participants may use include specialist boots, back, elbow and knee supports as well as belts to support the back.


In Tug of War, there is no scoring as such like you may see in other team games such as American Football or Soccer. However, because teams are pitted against each other usually in a best of three match, there is a form of scoring, in that the winner of the match must win two out the three pulls to win the match.

Winning the Game

Each team has a mark on their end of the rope 4m from the centre. The team who is pulled by the opposition towards the centre whose mark goes over the centre line is declared the loser. With matches often being the best of three, it is the that successfully wins two out of three pulls that is declared the winner.

Rules of Tug of War

  • Each team in a Tug of War competition consists of eight people.
  • There are various weight classifications in Tug of War, and the mass of the eight people combined must not weigh more than that determined by the category that they are placed in.
  • The rope used should be of a circumference of approximately 11 cm and should be marked in the middle with a centre line as well as two marks that should be placed 4m from the centre line.
  • At the start of the pull, the centre line of the rope should be immediately above line marked on the ground.
  • Both teams pull the rope, the winner being the team who manage to pull the mark on the rope closest to their opponents over the centre line.
  • The rope must be pulled underarm and nobody’s elbow must go below the knee, otherwise a foul will be called.
  • Matches are often a best of three pull, the winner winning two out of the three pulls.