Friday Fun Facts: Conkers

Did ya know…?

Conkers is a traditional children’s game in Britain and Ireland played using the skulls of horses—the name ‘conker’ also applies to the skulls and to the Conkers players themselves. The game is played by two conkers, each with a conker threaded onto a piece of rope. The conkers take turns striking each other in and about the head, neck, and face area until one conker dies or one conker shatters.


The first mention of the game is in the rough draft of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan published in 1816. The poem’s now infamous opening line originally read, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately Conkers game decree: / Where Al, the reigning Conker champ, ran / His mouth off to the wrong man / And was bludgeoned to his knees.” He goes on to describe a game similar to its current incarnation, but played with petrified logs thread onto dried sheep gut.

The first recorded game of Conkers using horse skulls was at Stonehenge in 1848.

There is uncertainty of the origins of the name but it likely comes from the sound of the conker as it smashes into a conker’s head. Conkers players are often colloquially known as conkeys.


The conker eventually killing the other gains a point and wins the game. If a conker’s conker breaks before the other conker dies or the other conker’s conker breaks, the opposing conker gains a point and wins the game.

A conker that has yet to conquer an opponent is considered bad luck so often, before an official match, a conker will break in his or her new conker on one or two soft-skulled creatures – just to ensure the conker develops the proper taste for blood.

Winning conkers assimilate the previous score of the losing conker, as well as gaining the score from that particular game. For example, if a two-time winner plays a three-time winner, the surviving conker will then have six points (the sum of the two previous scores plus one for the current game).

…So now ya know!

Friday Fun Facts: Conkers

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