GENERALLY SPEAKING ....
The organization of the Hash House Harriers is decentralized, with each chapter (also called kennels) locally managed and with no higher-level organizational hierarchy or central controlling organisation There are now close to 1200 kennels with at least one in most major cities in the world. Yet, rules and practices are mostly similar. Local, regional and international events are being organised and held in large numbers and many with a large number of participants. Most if not all kennels have their own newsletters and websites, and directories are published at some of the Interhash events.
Herein lies the uniqueness of the Hash. A worldwide camaraderie of hashers with no formal structure, getting together for a common purpose.
Hashers frequently describe themselves as 'a drinking club with a running problem', and the social element of hashing is of equal importance to the running. The seriousness of the running and of the drinking varies with each Kennel. Some Kennels focus on running while other focus on drinking. The length and difficulty of runs varies accordingly between each Kennel.
Practices also vary from chapter to chapter, country to country. What follows is true for most chapters.
Several regional directories or international directories have been published with Hash Contact information, although the Internet has become the primary source of hashing information.
Each chapter has its members who pay a subscription. This includes the drinks after the runs and other freebies given occasionally. But generally no membership or reservation is required to join a group and being a guest is welcome, for a fee. Typically all that is needed is to find out the time and location of the start; either by emailing a current member, viewing the group website, calling the information phone line if available, and just showing up. Most groups conduct a "chalk talk" where introductions are made and the system of hash marks is explained to new hashers and visiting hashers who may be used to a different system of marking. The exception to this would be special events, such as camp out, pub crawls, etc., that require significant pre-planning of food and beverages, however even then walk-ins are generally welcome.
Chapters usually run weekly, but many run monthly. There are numerous celebration runs to commemorate various events. These could be local to the chapter such as a run with a uniques number, 111 or 1000 or such and festive runs. The special events could be a national hash, Nash Hash, or regional hash events.
Every two years, an international meet is organised, referred to as the InterHash. Members at one will vote for the next location and so on. Attendance recently has been about 5000.
The traditional symbol of the hash is the outline of the foot, with often the words "On-On" written upon it.
A. S. Gispert
Hashing began in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1938, when a casual group of British colonial officials and expatriates, Cecil Lee, Frederick "Horse" Thomson, Ronald "Torch" Bennett, and a British accountant of Catalan descent Albert Stephen Ignatius Gispert (A. S. Gispert) would meet after work on Friday evenings to run, following a paper trail, through the environs of Kuala Lumpur. There was another member of the group, Frank Woodford, who is rarely credited as one of the founders as he left Malaysia after the war to return home to his family in Scotland.
Sometime late in 1938, 9 Harriers were in the Hash House and it was proposed a formal name be adopted.
G came up with the name. This was stated by Cecil in the interview. He said it was a jocular allusion to the Mess (bachelors hostel) they lived and it was alliterative (words with a rhythm).
As bachelors, they were billeted in the Selangor Club Annex, known locally as the Hash House, because of its monotonous food (hash, being an old army slang for food).
(see the page on How The Hash Got It's Name for more details)
Their runs were patterned after the traditional British paper chase. A hare was given a head start to blaze a trail, marking his devious way with shreds of paper, all the while pursued by a shouting pack of "harriers." Only the hare knew where he was going...the harriers followed his clues to stay on trail. Apart from the excitement of chasing the hare and solving the clues, reaching the end was its own reward...for there these thirsty harriers would find a tub of iced beer (and, in those earlier, more forgiving days, ginger beer and cigarettes).
Hashing died out during World War II after the Japanese invasion of Malaya, but started again shortly after the war, when the original protagonists, minus "G" who had been killed in the Japanese invasion of Singapore, re-assembled in Kuala Lumpur. Hashing didn't take off until 1962, when Ian Cumming founded the 2nd kennel in Singapore. From then on, the phenomenon started to grow, spreading through the Far East, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as Europe and North America. Hashing experienced a large growth in popularity during the mid-1970s.
Credit must be given to William "Tumbling Bill" Panton for having started a Hash Heritage, which is a total family tree of all the hash chapters in the world. Most chapters can find who its forefathers are and who the daughter hash chapters are. However, to have your chapter on record, you must pass the information to Neil Campbell (email@example.com) or to Hazukashi (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Hash House before demolition to make way for a highway
Marking The Trail
and Cecil In An Early Recce
Hashing hasn't strayed far from its Kuala Lumpur roots. A typical hash kennel (local chapter or group) today is a loosely-organized group of 20-100 men and women, aka Harriers and Harriettes or hussies, although not all groups are co-ed, and some chapters in major metropolitan areas have well more than 100 hashers at an event. Kennel members meet to follow a trail laid by a hare (the person(s) leading the trail who leaves the appropriate marks on the ground, trees etc. for the pack to follow). While strips or pieces of paper have previously been used to mark trail, especially in jungle or off-road areas, it has generally been replaced with flour or chalk, with toilet paper often being used in residential or town areas that would make it more environmental friendly. Generally any mark used to identify the trail is called a 'hash mark'.
Hash kennels in some locations, especially in cities, recommend that the hare call the local police dispatcher before the run as a courtesy to inform them of the run. They also prefer the use of bio-degradable materials such as flour or sawdust to mark the trail in order to avoid unnecessary problems. After the anthrax scares in 2001, many groups throughout the Western world had to change the way they marked trails by using colored chalk or other materials. On August 25, 2007, a "bio-terror" alert was triggered in New Haven, Connecticut due to hashers using flour, and the two hares (who spread the flour) were charged with a felony in an event known as the Hamburger Hash Affair. A similar incident occurred in Rome.
Trails are, as they mostly are, "dead" - where trail is laid entirely (or in part) in advance of the start. They could also be "live" - where the hare gets the head start (often 5-10 minutes) from the pack and sets the run as he goes. The hare would of course have pre-planned the trail and to make it interesting, the run paper would be given to the hare just as the hare starts off!! Live trails, while closer to the original Hare and Hounds tradition mentioned in "Tom Brown's Schooldays", are more common in the USA, while the rest of the world tends towards "dead" or pre-laid trails. The choice of "live" or "dead" trails is a subject of much controversy on the various hash-related discussion groups.
There may be one or more "beer stops" or "beer checks" along the way, with the hare either pre-caching a stock of beer, or having the trail go to a prearranged meeting spot with the "beer truck", generally a personal vehicle that someone is using to transport a keg or cooler of drinks, snacks, and beer.
With a "live" trail, the general intent of the pack is to attempt to catch the hare before they finish the trail and get to the end. In efforts to do this, some pack members might "range", or go off-trail if they can guess where the hare may go, in attempts to head off the hare. Generally such a form of athleticism is frowned on by some of the more socially minded kennels.
To make the run interesting, the hare can set the trail through literally any kind of terrain, with the hares' imagination providing the only limitation. Hashers may run through streets, back alleyways, residential areas, forests, swamps or shopping malls, ford streams, climb fences, explore storm drains, run through huge jungles and scale cliffs. The pack never knows where a trail will go or where it may lead.
A trail may be 'A to A', where the run starts and ends in the same place, or 'A to B' where the run ends in a different location and the pack is transported back to the runsite. It could even be a 'B' to 'A' run, where the pack is transported to a starting point to run back to the runsite.
Often the hare will employ several tricks in attempts to slow the pack and to keep runners and walkers together. The hare may mark an intersection - generally called a "check" - that signifies that the trail continues within a 360 degree area from that point. Several false trails may lead from that check and it is up to the front runners to "solve" the trail by going out and determining what might actually be the correct path, or "true trail". Once the true way has been determined, then that runner may mark the check to indicate the proper direction so that anyone to come up it later (such as the walkers, other runners, or anyone arriving late) will not have to figure it out all over again.
The pack will generally carry whistles, horns, or other audible means of communicating in order to assist each other on trail and keep from getting lost. A member of the pack calling out "Are you?" means to know if another individual is searching for the true trail, typically near a check (or intersection), or is on the correct path. Someone will typically call out either "Checking!" to indicate that they are looking for the trail or "On-On", or blow their whistle or horn three times, to signify that they are on the true trail and that the pack should follow them. Otherwise, the member may shout "Flying!" or give a couple of "wing flaps" with their arms indicate that they have abandoned the true trail in search of a short cut in which case, others should only follow at their own risk.
Every Hash House employs its own set of marks and the names for these marks may vary widely, so Hashers visiting another pack should check the local signs before the run. Traditionally, new runners or visitors will have the local markings explained to them before the run at a "chalk talk".
In some chapters, the hares are present at the start of the run. They will give some trail-specific advice, too, such as rare markings used, or particular encounters such as a swimming hole.
Trails do get awry or completely shot up. This could happen if the runs were too long, too short, checks were too difficult, too easy, trails inadvertently criss-crossing, paper not sufficient, paper missing, earlier running chapter papers not picked causing confusion, or anything that makes runners straggling back with unmentionable remarks.
It is generally accepted that runs must be between 1.0 and 1.5 hours for the front runners. Others usually come in within 30 minutes after. If the run is too short or exceeds the time limit, the hare would have to do a fine run later.
Although some (but perhaps very few) of today's health-conscious hashers drink water or a diet soda, a trail's end is still a predominantly alcoholic drinking occasion. The exception would be found at a family hash.... and even then. At trail's end hashers gather to drink beer, soft drinks before or after the beers and generally have a chinwag. This is always about the run, how good it was, how bad it was, how well the hare set it and how it could have been better, how they would have set it, who did what silly thing on the run etc etc.
In many chapters, especially in the tropics, hashers would have a wash down or even a full bath, shampoo and all!!! They would have water containers and sluice from them or nowadays, have electric showers runnning off the cigarette lighter point in the car !!! This bathing from the different cars would indeed appear to be a ritual of sorts !!! But as the tropical runners would admit, nothing more refreshing than a wash after the run !!! In others, they just have a change of clothes.
Then it is time for the "Circle" This typically consists of drinking more beer; this time ritualistically. Circles may be led by the hash Grandmaster, the group's Religious Adviser, or by a committee of mismanagement. Traditions and the degree of rowdiness vary from hash to hash, but in general the Circle consists of awarding "Down-Downs".
A down-down is one of the oldest traditions and is a means of punishing or rewarding pretty much anything. Upon being called to do a down-down the accused must come to the middle of the circle and drink everything that they have in their vessel (generally a cup, mug, or other drinking device), to the accompaniment of a short ditty. They must do this without pause until they have consumed the whole quantity of drink (typically beer, but it can be of any drink they may have with them) or they must pour the remaining contents over their head.
Hashers enjoying the cool of the evening
The circle starts with the hare being called to the box, a small stand of beer cartons or otherwise. Comments on the run are made and in total frankness too !!! A Down Down is then given to the hare for an enjoyable run, even if it was a total disaster.
Miscreants taking an On Down
Then hashers are called up for misdemeanors real, imagined, or blatantly made up. Humour and good sporting spirit is the general order of the circle. The true art of the 'call' is to make it a humourous rigmoral and start in such a way that the intended victim only realises that he/she is, at the end, the victim. The hasher called, has no right of appeal and a drink is taken anyway. Generally the activities will also include the group singing of bawdy drinking songs of the type that can be heard in a pub, fraternity party, military get-together, rugby match, or other such social gathering. These songs are also published and distributed to members in the form of so-called Hash House Hymnals.
At the conclusion of the Circle, hashers may head to an " ON ON" "On-After" or "On-On-On", which may be at a nearby restaurant or pub for food and more drinks. The food is usually ordered in advance and the bill is shared by all. Drinks are on individual account but it is common for hashers to put an amount in a glass as a kitty for contributors to share beer. (You can imagine what will happen to scroungers). This is the social part of the hash, and the party may last from one hour to several hours, as they tell stories, have fun, and enjoy everyone's company.
Traditions and naming conventions
There are said to be no rules in hashing, however several traditions have developed with a violation of such severely frowned upon and likely to invoke a punishment by way of a "down-down".
Typically being caught in a pair of new shoes may require that one drinks from the offending shoe as penance and to make it more interesting, after the run, irrespective of the condition!!!
You Can Never Escape The Call for Wearing New Shoes !!
Other traditions which differ among chapters, include a prohibition of pointing with fingers, requiring the use of elbows or other appendages to indicate direction, and a proscription against the use of real names (aka nerd names) at any point around other hashers.
One interesting aspect of hashing (besides the running and general drinking of beer) is the use of names as assigned by the group. Though traditions may vary greatly among the groups, and some groups do not do this, it is common practice to give members a nickname. At their first hash, attendees will generally be known as "Virgin [Name]" or "New Boot [Name]" and will then be called "Just [Name]" or "No Name ... [Name]" until duly named by the group. The occasion of a member's naming by the group may occur after they have attended a specified number of hashes (e.g. 5), after they hare their first trail, or after they do something the pack deems noteworthy.
Before a naming, the group may collect information concerning the individual or ask them a series of questions that can include occupation, most embarrassing moment, personal preferences, stories, or experiences. Others will then be allowed to share their own stories or knowledge concerning that individual in hopes of finding some aspect that seems to be memorable or noticeably sticks out regarding that person. Many suggestions may be offered, with the final name being chosen by vote or general group consensus with more often than not some humorous or (unfortunately) debaucherous connotation being used.
Sometimes a kennel will conduct a special event in place of a normal hash, that can consist of anything from a house party, camp out, or pub crawl. One of the more famous events is known as the 'Red Dress Run' and is held by most local chapters once a year. This tradition began in San Diego when a virgin (new) hasher showed up for a run wearing only a red dress (having been ill informed of what to expect). When she next returned, other hashers decided to wear a red dress as a joke; with it soon becoming an annual event and eventually spreading around the world. During this event, which can be either a normal hash run or a simple day-long pub crawl, everyone (both genders) is to wear something red and dress-like, not specifically just a red dress. Turn outs include red body latex paint to red duct tape, red sarongs, or a normal lovely summer dress, with all extremes being pretty well accepted. In Kennels that host red-dress runs, it is not unusual that it be the largest hash of the year with attendance up to 2,000 in San Diego for a couple of years over 1500 currently in New Orleans and 500-600 in places such as Washington DC. Other variations of a theme can be seen, as kennels might also host a green dress run (often held around St. Patrick's Day), formal dress run, lingerie hash, or a clown hash.
There are also bicycle hashes or BASHes, that have been formed, based
on the same principles as the running hashs, but often without the ceremonial
aspects. In many countries, there may be Children Hashes for those under
16, generally with soft drinks replacing beer and many adult themes
being toned down considerably. There are also "Hash-O" events
that combine elements of hashing and orienteering. Not wanting to be
left out, the dogs who accompany the owners have insisted on Dog Hashes
or DASHes being formed.