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Hashing originated in December 1938 in Selayang Quarry, Selangor, then in the Federated Malay States (now Malaysia), when a group of British colonial officers and expatriates began meeting on Monday evenings to run, in a fashion patterned after the traditional British paper chase or "hare and hounds", to rid themselves of the excesses of the previous weekend.The original members included Albert Stephen (A.S.) Ignatius "G" Gispert, Cecil Lee, Frederick "Horse" Thomson, Ronald "Torch" Bennett, Eric Galvin, H.M. Doig, and John Woodrow. A. S. Gispert suggested the name "Hash House Harriers" after the Selangor Club Annex, where several of the original hashers lived and dined, known as the "Hash House".

The objectives of the Hash House Harriers as recorded on the club registration card dated 1950:

To promote physical fitness among our membersTo get rid of weekend hangovers
To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer
To persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel
At present, there are almost two thousand chapters in all parts of the world, with members distributing newsletters, directories, and magazines and organizing regional and world hashing events. As of 2007, there are even two organized chapters operating in Antarctica.

Generally, hash events are open to the public and require no reservation or membership, but most require a small fee, referred to as "hashcash", to cover the costs incurred, such as food or drink.

The end of a trail is an opportunity to socialize, have a drink and observe any traditions of the individual chapter (see Traditions). When the hash officially ends, many members may continue socializing at an "on-after", "on-down", "on-on-on", "apres", or "hash bash", an event held at a nearby house, pub, or restaurant.

Hashing has not strayed far from its roots in Kuala Lumpur. The hare(s) mark their trail with paper, chalk, sawdust, or colored flour, depending on the environment and weather.

Special marks may be used to indicate a false trail, a backtrack, a shortcut, or a turn. The most commonly used mark is a "check", indicating that hashers will have to search in any direction to find the continuation of the trail. Trails may contain a "beer check", where the pack stops to consume beer, water, or snacks, allowing any stragglers to catch up to the group.

Hashers often carry horns or whistles to communicate with each other, in addition to verbal communication. Every hash house employs its own set of trail marks and the names for these marks may vary widely, so newcomers or visitors will have the local markings explained to them before the run at a "chalk talk". The most common term is "on-on," shouted by runners to let others know they are on the right trail. A yell of "RU" (pronounced "are you") is a question to other hashers if they are on trail – it should be responded with either "On-On" or "Looking".

Sometimes there is a call to "circle up" – this is a call from a leader for the hashers to form a circle, be quiet, and pay attention. Circles are called for the "chalk talk", to give news, or for some ceremony such as to thank the hare for the hash.

Circles
Most hash events end with a group gathering known as the "circle", or less commonly as "religion". Led by chapter leadership, the circle provides a time to socialize, sing drinking songs, recognize individuals, formally name members, or inform the group of pertinent news or upcoming events. Circles may be led by the chapter grand-master, the group's religious adviser, or by a committee. Impromptu input is welcome and/or solicited.

Down-downs
A "down-down" is a means of punishing, rewarding, or merely recognizing an individual for any action or behavior according to the customs or whims of the group. Generally, the individual in question is asked to consume without pause the contents of his or her drinking vessel or risk pouring the remaining contents on his or her cranium. Individuals may be recognized for outstanding service, or for their status as a visitor or newcomer. Down-downs also serve as punishment for misdemeanors real, imagined, or blatantly made up. Such transgressions may include: failing to stop at the beer check, pointing with a finger, or the use of real names. Commonly, hashers who wear new shoes to an event can be required to drink from that shoe.

Many chapters include an ice seat or throne as part of the down-down ceremony. Those who are to consume a down-down sit on a large block of ice while they await the completion of the down-down song. If the offence that resulted in the down-down is particularly egregious, the hasher may be subjected to a long song with many verses.

Hash names
In most chapters, the use of real names during an event is discouraged. Members are typically given a "hash name," usually in deference to a particularly notorious escapade, a personality trait, or their physical appearance. In some chapters the name must be earned – that is, hashers are not named until they've done something outstanding, unusual, or stupid enough to warrant a name. In other chapters the process is more mechanical and hashers are named after completing a certain number of events (5–10 being the most common).

Upcoming events

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