10 Things You Didn't Know About Cheese Rolling

By Spencer Hart on at

Every year health and safety fanatics enter cardiac arrest while watching coverage of the annual Cheese Rolling competition.

In 2013, runners had to chase a fake foam cheese down Cooper's Hill, but this year the competition is back to its full-flavoured cheese craziness. To celebrate a win for the anti-health and safety establishment, here are 10 facts about everyone's favourite cheese-based running competition.


1.) Cheese rolling has taken place since the 15th century

The infamous cheese rolling ceremony has taken place since the fifteenth century and there are two possible explanations to the origin of the event. One explanation is that it evolved from a requirement to maintain grazing rights on the common. The second explanation is that the ceremony is of pagan origin, when bundles of burning brushwood were rolled down the hill, representing the birth of the New Year. In connection with this theory, there is also a tradition of scattering buns, biscuits and sweets over the hill, which is said to encourage a fruitful harvest. [Image Credit: BBC]


2.) Chris Anderson, 13-time winner, put a kettle in the fridge

Chris Anderson is a cheese rolling local celebrity, winning 13 times in eight years. In one interview Chris talks about a fall in which he hit his head; thinking nothing of it he went to work the next day. He was sent home early after he put a kettle in the fridge. [Image Credit: Cheese Rolling]


3.) The cheese reaches speeds of 70 mph

The cheese currently used for the event is a Double Gloucester cheese wheel weighing between seven and nine pounds (3.1 kg to 4.0 kg). Double Gloucester is a hard cheese, especially if left to age, which makes it suitable for throwing down a hill. The competitors are aiming to catch the cheese, but with its one-second head start and top speed of 70 mph, it's rarely caught. [Image Credit: Cheese Rolling]


4.) How does it work?

Despite its annual coverage the exact rules of cheese rolling remain a mystery to most. There are four downhill races: three for men and one for women. Each race has a maximum of 15 runners, but in previous years as many as 40 competitors would run down the hill at once (that was until St John's Ambulance complained they didn't have enough paramedics to treat everyone). The Master of Ceremonies introduces the guest of honour and then shouts, "One to be ready, two to be steady, three to prepare (at which point the cheese is released), and four to be off." The runners then launch themselves after the cheese, the first one to catch it wins the cheese. [Image Credit: Izismile]


5.) Stephen Gyde has won more cheeses than anybody else

Stephen Gyde from Brockworth last ran in 2006, but before that he competed in the event since 1978. Stephen has won more cheese than anybody else, with a current total of 21 cheeses under his belt. He also holds the record for being the only competitor to have won all three cheeses in a single year, twice. [Image Credit: Cheese Rolling Festival]


6.) The same woman has been making the cheese since 1988

Since 1988, the cheese has been hand-made by Diana Smart in Churcham, Gloucestershire. She uses milk from her herd of Brown Swiss, Holstein and Gloucester cows. She is the only person in Gloucestershire making Double Gloucester cheese using traditional methods. [Image Credit: Telegraph]


7.) Only one Master of Ceremonies has retired

The Master of Ceremonies is such an awesome job only one person has been recorded as 'retiring'; all other MCs have 'died in office'. [Image Credit: 247 Magazine]


8.) During World War II a wooden 'cheese' was used

During the second world war rationing prevented the use of real cheese for the event. From 1941 to 1954, a wooden 'cheese' was rolled down the hill with a small piece of real cheese in the centre. The Ministry of Food had to give special permission to use cheese in this way. [Image Credit: Cheese Rolling Festival]


9.) Once an 18-kilo cheese was used

To celebrate the return of full-size cheeses after World War II, New Zealand Dairy Products Marketing Commission donated a 40-pound (18.1kg) New Zealand cheddar cheese wheel. [Image Credit: Shutterstock]


10.) The cheese maker can be held responsible for injuries

In 2013, the police warned beloved cheese maker, Diana Smart, that she could be held responsible if anyone was injured while chasing her cheese down the hill. As a result a foam cheese was used for one year, but real cheese made a triumphant return in 2014. [Image Credit: Hope/Glory]

Lead Image Credit: Paul Robinson/Flickr