"The drinking club with a running problem,"
Hash House Harriers is an international network
s, with over 1300 hashes known to exist. Hashes generally have a British
flavour due to the their origin, but also tend to adapt to the personnel and personality of the area.
Hash House Harriers (HHH) was started in Kuala Lumpur, modern-day Malaysia, in 1938 by a British expatriate with the unlikely name of Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert. Gispert was a fan of the English running game "Hounds and Hares" or "Paper Chase," and organized a group of fellow expats with similar interests. The club took its name from the Selangor Club, which, due to the poor quality of its food, was known as the "Hash House."
HHH's growth was momentarily stymied when the Japanese decided to free South East Asia from the menace of Western Imperialism. Some of the Kuala Lumpur hashers began a hash in Italy in 1947; the next started in Singapore in 1962.
While traditions vary from hash to hash, the outline is usually similar. Members of the hash meet once a week, at a pre-determined meeting place. Before this, a trailblazer or "hare" has laid a course around the meeting place with chalk and flour. This course generally contains a series of signs, some of which indicate the correct way, some of which do not. A common device is a "Check," at which a variety of potentially valid directions are indicated by arrows. Hashers must explore all directions until a sign reading "On-On" (the rallying cry of every good hasher) is spotted. A circle with an X within it, or a lack of directional arrows and/or the On-On sign, indicate a wrong path.
The purpose of such trickery is to assure that the Front Running Bastards (FRBs) do not venture too far from the rest of the pack, ensuring relatively similar finish times. There is generally no prize for finishing first, unless one considers being forced to down a large amount of alcohol in a small amount of time a prize. Some do, in fact. Runs vary in length, from 45 minutes to 2 hours or more; an average hash for an average hasher is probably 6-10 kilometers.
For the spice of life, or if a pre-hash hare is not available, a "Catch Hare" may be held; in these races, one lucky soul is (s)elected the first Hare, and given a bag of flour, a piece of chalk, and a 5-10 minute lead. The pack then gives chase, with the first to catch the Hare becoming the new Hare in turn. This generally continues until a Hare manages to find his or her way back to the starting point.
After the run is over, hashes usually gather in the Circle. At this time, various hashers may be awarded "Down-Downs" for various accomplishments or lack thereof. These are what they sound like: downing a reasonably large amount of beer in one go. The vessel for the beer varies from hash to hash and may or may not have a pestle. The Kobe (Japan) Hash House Harriers, as one example, use a trumpet-like instrument, fondly known as the Hash Horn.
After the Circle is complete, most hashes adjourn to a nearby eating and drinking establishment for "On-In." From this point on, hashes may vary considerably; some are remarkably drunken and debauched, while others are astonishingly tame and timid (although they'd never admit to it).
For more information on hashing and HHH, go to http://www.gthhh.com, which was also a reference for this write-up.