The game as it's played these days takes many forms, with varying rules depending on the location and surroundings in which it is played, but few realise the solemn circumstances from which the game was borne. 

Although there is some dispute amongst Game historians, the general consensus is that the game can be traced back to the sheep-shearing sheds of 19th century Australia, and to a new Bulgarian immigrant named Grozdan Bozhidarov.

Rural beginnings

Grozdan was born in the steel working community of Draka, in central Bulgaria, in 1855. His early years saw him get into several scrapes with local authorities. When just seven, he was caught by Draka's mayor attempting to decapitate a bronze statue in the town square using a hacksaw he'd procured from a local wood yard. The mayor instructed the boy to pay of his debt to the community by picking carrots in community gardens.

Reports say that Grozdan quickly tired of picking carrots by hand and having to place them in the barrow that he had to trail behind him, all the time moving the barrow up the field. He soon developed a technique of holding the barrow behind him with both hands while bending forward, pulling the carrot out by its top, and hurling the carrot into the barrow behind him, all the while keeping hold of the barrow.

Long past paying off his debt, he continued working in the carrot fields for the next 10 years, until he met the daughter of a Colombian jeweller passing through their town. There was a short romance, after which Blanka announced that she would be sailing with her father to Australia, who has set his sights on the Opal fields of Coober Pedy. 

Grozdan announced to his parents that he would follow her, and within days had talked his way onto Lin Yuo, a Chinese junk destined for Wollongong. The young man boarded the ship, and when he arrive in Australia found himself working in the sheep shearing sheds of country New South Wales, while saving to head West in search of Blanka. The work was hard, and Grazdan quickly earned himself a reputation as a good worker. 

He also became known for his unusual technique of standing straight-legged with the animal on the ground between his legs and working with his face close to the animal. The popular steam-driven shears of the time often had blades disengage from the hand piece. Such was the price of metal in the Australian colony that shearers daren't lose these pieces, and were instructed to keep hold of them to give to the foreman at the end of the day. Speed of shearing being important, Grozdan was renowned for his technique of picking up the piece of metal with his teeth, keeping hold of the animal, and only putting the piece of metal in his pocket once the sheep was shorn and released.

A game is borne

He would show off his talents for this on drinking nights at the end of the season, with other shearers seeking to compete with each other to see who was most apt at picking things off the ground. It didn't take long before they were using the boxes of Solomon's Best Sherry, and progressively tearing strips away in a manner that resembles the current game.

The game quickly grew in popularity in the local drinking houses of the area, until Gregory Hamilton, a telegraph technician spread news of the game throughout Australia. The first reference to the game was in 1871, when the Australian Prime Minister, announced in a parliamentary debate over industrial working hours

There's no finer example of Australian steadfastness, nor the ingenuity of our workers
than the Bozhidarov Game, coming from the sheep shearing sheds in which they toil. 

Pronunciation of the Bulgarian name proved too much for the Australian public, and the game soon became known informally as the Box Game.

Over the following 50 years, the game grew in popularity around the world. From the speakeasies of the Bronx to the wineries of the French Riviera, revellers played the variations of the game. 

Sporting Recognition

But it wasn't until the infamous Box Game Rebellion in Vienna in 1909 that the game made the front pages of newspapers around the world. The resulting surge in Pro-Box sentiment after the shocking events in Vienna forced governments to officially recognise the sport.

The oldest regular competition was between the twin cities of Kamisu and Kashima of Japan, first recorded in 1914, where young men would compete for the affections of a town beauty.

The IBGL was formed in 1951 to represent the interests of players internationally, and to officiate on international records.

The Box Game featured as a demonstration sport at the Montreal Olympics of 1976, but was never admitted as a competition event, despite lobbying for the IBGL. The Olympic Committee cited the prevalence of performance enhancing substance abuse, and specifically the scandal surrounding Chad National Team at the 1960 African IBGL Titles, as a reason for the refusal.

The Modern Game

Today, the game is played throughout the world, with 86 countries having an national team. It is played in living rooms throughout the world, and is recognised as a national sport in Suriname, Moldova and Guatemala.

The IBGL is central to the role of promoting and administering the sport internationally.

Nightdress Attire

The tradition of wearing pajamas when playing the Box Game informally has extended to competitions. The clothes are not only symbolic of the informality of playing the Game in a friend's home, but the loose-fitting and elasticated nature of the clothes also makes them ideal for the range of contortions often seen in the game.