What is Wife-Carrying?


Wife-carrying is a strange sport that originated in Finland and is played by male competitors who will have to carry their female partners or teammates on their backs while racing in an obstacle course. The sports original Finnish name was “eukonkanto” when it was only played in Finland, but its official name has been “wife-carrying” when it started becoming an international sport. Today, the wife-carrying sport is being held in different countries besides Finland, such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, India, and Hong Kong. How was this obscure sport invented? And how did it become so popular internationally? These questions will surely be answered as we take a look at the mechanics and the origins of wife-carrying.

How It is Played

The sport was traditionally played on a trail, which is filled with rocky and uneven terrain that is quite hard to race on. However, to make the sport safer, the course that the competitors will run on is filled with sand instead of rocks, although organizers today would add a pool or a relatively deep puddle to make the game more exciting.

In addition, there was also a set of rules that were implemented for wife-carrying during the modern era. The set of rules are agreed upon by the International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee. One of the rules added is that all wife-carrying courses or tracks should be 253.5 meters longs, and another rule is that the track should have two dry obstacles and a water obstacle that is only one meter deep, which means the pool portion of the course is required. Furthermore, the “wife” that will be carried should have a weight of 49 kilograms and above, but if the wife’s weight is less than 49 kilograms, she would have to carry weights inside a rucksack. Also, the wife should 17 years old and above, and she doesn’t necessarily have to be her teammate’s wife.

As for equipment, the only accessory that can be worn by the carrier is a belt, while the one who is carried is only allowed to wear a helmet. Moreover, there can only be two pairs of carrier and carried in a single race to make it less chaotic and more focused. If there are more two pairs of competitors in the competition, then the event should hold multiple races.

Whoever finishes the race first wins the contest, but there will be other prizes to be won on the event, and some of the awards include the strongest carrier that carried the heaviest female in the competition, the pair with the best costume, and the most entertaining couple that performed unbelievable stunts during the race.


a man carrying a woman on his back

No one knows the exact origins of wife-carrying, but according to Finnish legends, it was a man named HerkkoRosvo-Ronkainen, better known by his nickname “Ronkainen the Robber,” who inspired the invention of the sport. In the legends, Ronkainen is a nefarious man who lived in a forest and would always cause mischief in a nearby village along with his gang of thieves. There is a story stating that Ronkainen and his thieves would not only steal precious belongings in the village but also women. The thieves would often carry these women on their backs.

However, there is another story saying that the young men in Ronkainen’s group would often steal and carry other people’s wives back to their lair so that they can marry them, and this story must have been the inspiration as to why the sport is called “wife-carrying.” Oddly enough, this tradition of “wife-stealing” or “bride kidnapping” is present in many cultures and in different countries around the world. Besides stealing and carrying women, the sport is also believed to have been inspired by a story that Ronkainen would train young thieves to steal more belongings by forcing them to carry sacks filled with heavy objects in their backs. The practice of carrying heavy sacks also allowed the thieves to be quick on their feet when they don’t carry anything.

The legends of Ronkainen the Robber then gave birth to the sport of wife-carrying, although it was not considered a sport until the 1990s. In fact, before it became a competitive sport, wife-carrying was only held in Finland as a joke, as they believe that it should be part of their tradition to carry on holding the strange events. However, by the early 1990s, wife-carrying became well-known internationally, and it soon became an international sport. Wife-carrying became an official sport when the Wife Carrying World Championship was first held in 1992 in Finland. The prize for that competition was a beer keg that has the same weight as the wife carried by the winner. Today, there are more than three wife-carrying competitions around the world, and each of these competitions would sometimes have a different set of rules and prizes.

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