What Is the History of Darts?
Updated: Mar 3
Have you ever wondered how darts became a household game? From Medieval times to our modern day, the game of darts has undergone its fair share of changes. Whether you're a darts aficionado or just curious about how the game got its start, the history of darts is fascinating.
Below, you'll find out more about this treasured pastime, including when darts was invented, what country darts originates from and the history of how darts became the widely celebrated sport it is today. Read on if you want to know how your favorite pub game has evolved through the centuries.
Who Invented the Dart Board?
Before diving into more of the backstory of darts, it's important to discuss who invented the dart board. The man credited with creating the first official dart board was named Brian Gamlin. Gamlin was a carpenter from Bury, Lancashire, in England. He is generally accepted as the person who came up with the number system on a dart board in 1896. Unfortunately, Gamlin died in 1903 before he could attain a patent for his work.
However, there is debate among darts experts about whether Gamlin was even a real person. Some darts historians theorize that the dart board was actually invented by a man named Thomas William Buckle. Although research is still being done into this topic, common belief still attributes Gamlin with devising the first dart board for now.
Regardless of which of these men invented the dart board, the game of darts goes much farther back than the circular, colorful dart board we know today.
How Old Is the Game of Darts?
The game of darts got its start as a military pastime in England during the Medieval Era in the 1300s, making darts about 700 years old. However, the concept of aiming sharp objects at a target that the game of darts is based on had existed long before the 14th century. For example, many other games involved throwing things like arrows, knives or swords at tree trunks or tables.
The historical account of darts emerging as a popular military pastime tells of soldiers taking aim at upturned wine casks and cross-sectioned tree trunks to prove their mettle. The soldiers would use spearheads and other sharp objects for their version of darts. Officials often encouraged their soldiers to participate in these games because it allowed them to practice their aim and throwing skills.
Soon, competitors set out to consolidate a consistent set of rules for the game and refine the cross-sections drawn on a tree trunk. The tree trunk's natural growth rings served as a template for the cross-sections and even established the design for our modern-day dart board. Over the next few hundred years, the game would evolve into the version of darts we know and love today.
Where Did Darts Originate?
Most likely, shortened bow arrows were the forerunner for the modern dart. While other regions of the world had been using military weapons for accuracy games similar to darts, the first record of a modern-day darts game can be traced back to France. In France, people began using "flechettes," which means "small arrow" and consisted of a short arrow with a metal point and flights made from bird feathers, as their darts.
These flechettes were thrown at a target that had concentric rings, much like the dart boards of today. Later, darts became more popularized as a game played at English fairgrounds. The dart boards used at fairgrounds were designed to make the game appear easier than it was, making it less likely that a player would win a prize. Soon, this captivating game of skill would make its way into English pubs and become even more popular.
History of Darts
Darts have come a long way since their Medieval beginnings. Originally, playing target-centered games like darts involved throwing a dangerous weapon like a spear or a javelin. Some of these throwing weapons also had a throwing string attached at their end to help the thrower launch them farther.
As the game of darts made its way to civilians, it evolved to include smaller throwing objects like the pocket-sized darts we know now. English pubs, in particular, took to playing darts quickly and devised an official dart board complete with a unique scoring system. By the turn of the 20th century, darts had become a beloved game for pub-goers.
Once darts became a pub staple, it continued to gain devoted fans, and the first organized darts championship was held in the 1920s. In 1924, the National Darts Association was established. By the 1930s, darts expanded from being played at pubs and breweries to being a household game. Many people had darts and a dart board at home. Some even had an entire dart cabinet.
Throughout the 20th century, the game grew more and more popular until it was finally recognized as an official sport.
When Did Darts Become a Sport?
As darts continued to amass a large following of dedicated fans, the sports world became more and more interested in the pub game. Soon, the World Darts Federation (WDF) was founded in 1974 as a governing body and tournament organizer for darts, making the game an internationally recognized sport. Membership with the WDF is available to the national organizing body for darts in any country.
After the formation of the WDF, playing darts professionally quickly took off. In 1978, the first World Darts Championship was hosted by the U.K. A man from Wales named Leighton Rees won the championship, taking home a shiny trophy and a check for about $4,100. Since then, the prize money for major darts tournaments has increased significantly, with the 2021 PDC World Darts Championship offering its winner about $680,000.
The Modern Darts Game
When the National Championships for darts were established, many high-profile darts players were not happy with the way the competitions were formed. These disagreements resulted in the first significant organization split for the sport in 1992. The split led to the founding of the Worlds Dart Council and the separate Professional Dart Corporation.
By having two different organizations, the game of darts became more popular than ever. Both of the organizations have done outstanding work for integrating the game of darts into the modern world and transforming it into a functional sport. Thanks to their tireless efforts, the sport of darts has millions of dollars invested in it and draws sizeable sponsorships from a variety of supporters.
Today, the sport of darts remains most popular in Britain, with millions of British players competing in thousands of registered darts clubs. Darts is rapidly gaining traction in other parts of the world, including the Netherlands, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. The U.S. sells hundreds of thousands of dart boards each year, and millions of Americans enjoy playing darts on a regular basis.
From its humble roots as a casual pub game, darts has grown into an international sport played and watched by millions. Professional darts players enjoy lucrative sponsorship deals and staggering amounts of prize money. At the same time, playing darts remains a favorite among everyday amateurs who just want to have a good time challenging their friends to a little friendly competition.
Get Your Dart Board From HB Home
Are you ready to try your hand at the storied sport of darts? Purchase a dart board cabinet from HB Home. Our dart board cabinets come fully stocked with a board, darts and a reusable scorekeeping card. You can choose from silver, black, whiskey and dark chestnut cabinet colors to ensure your dart board looks classy in your game room and compliments your other game furnishings.
Order your dart board from HB Home today to make your game room complete.