Every Year, People in this English Town Risk Life and Limb to Chase a Wheel of Cheese

Whether you're a cheese lover or not, Gloucestershire's cheese rolling competition has been long regarded as one of the most intriguing — and dangerous — of English springtime pastimes. The question is, how far would you go for your country's beloved cheese? Would you rise (or in this case tumble) to the occasion, or would you be left in the dirt (literally.)

Catch Me If You Can

Cheese may be as dangerous as it is delicious. At least that's the case on Cooper's Hill in Gloucestershire, U.K., where several injuries and concussions take place during the Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling contest each year. This is, to our knowledge, the only event where people compete to win a wheel of cheese by chasing it down a hill. Here, people tumble, roll, or slide their way down in pursuit of the wheel of double Gloucester, which weighs 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) and travels at up to 70 miles (113 kilometers) per hour. Most everyone tries to run on their feet at first, but the hill is so steep that the majority give into gravity before too long.

The Cooper's Hill Cheese rolling competition is rooted in tradition. While the first recorded race took place in 1826, the actual event could be older. Why do people do it? No one really knows. It may have once served a purpose, but today, it's just plain fun.

In 2010, the "official" competition was canceled since the event had grown far too popular and attracted such large crowds that emergency vehicles couldn't get through to the many participants sustaining concussions and other injuries. However, that didn't stop people from hurling themselves down a steep hill to chase some cheese, and the competition still takes place every year "unofficially."

Nothing Cheesy About This Champion

In 2018, 30-year-old Chris Anderson won the 22nd wheel of cheese in his 14-year competition career. He's endured bruised kidneys, broken bones, and concussions to hold that victory streak. Interestingly enough, Anderson claims he has eaten little or none of his winnings, according to National Geographic. He doesn't even like cheese — except cheddar. Anderson told the BBC that this race is "in his blood," but we'd prefer that cheese in our stomachs. Instead, the all-time cheese champion planned to auction off the wheel to raise money for Joseph's Goal, which funds research into the rare childhood development disorder known as nonketotic hyperglycinemia, or NKH.

The winner of the 2018 women's competition was 27-year-old Flo Early, who rolled to victory for the third consecutive time. Once she reached the bottom, she was shortly taken to the medic tent with a dislocated shoulder but reemerged to raise the wheel in triumph — with her good arm, of course. That's just the price you pay for chasing a big wheel of cheese down a steep hill.

If you find the topic of cheese intriguing, read the "World Cheese Book" by Juliet Harbutt to discover the many kinds of cheese across the globe. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

What Is the Gloucester Cheese Rolling Competition?

Written by Annie Hartman July 3, 2018

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