No one knows how old this game is; it probably predates Greece and Rome, and might have had some ritual signicance in the dim past.
Any number can play. Someone is chosen as the "leader". Players form a line behind the leader and hold tightly to the belt or garment of the person in front of them.
The "leader" quickly changes pace and speeds up or slows down. Sometimes the leader goes in circles and moves very fast - the others try to hold on. The leader attempts to get those holding on to let go. If they do, they must drop out of the game!
Compare Brueghel's painting of this game in 1560 with the American artist Winslow Homer's painting of the same game in 1872. Homer called the game Snap The Whip and seemed to have painted a number of variations with the same subject matter. The original for this copy is in the "Butler Instutite Of American Art" in Youngstown, Ohio, USA.
All the players in Homer's painting are boys. They play the game by holding hands in a horizontal line, rather than like the players in Brueghel's time who stood behind one another in a line.
Last update February 10, 2010