Wife Carrying originated in Finland, and its history is based
around the 19th century legend of Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen, or
“Ronkainen the Robber.” There are three stories as to how the
sport was created. First, Ronkainen and his thieves were accused
of stealing food and women from villages in the area he lived
in; then carried these women on their backs as they ran away.
Second, it has been said the men would go to villages near their
own to steal other men's wives, and then have the woman become
their own wife. Third is the story that Ronkainen trained his
thieves by carrying big, heavy sacks on their backs, which could
have eventually evolved to a sport.
The first modern day wife carrying event was held in Finland in
1992 and foreign contestants were admitted in 1995. This event
is now held annually in Sonkajärvi, Finland as the World
Championship. A North American Championship was started in 1999.
North American Championship
The North American rules and regulations for wife carrying
vary slightly from the World Championship rules on several
points. The list below is the official set of rules and
regulations for the North American Championship and are
followed by most state and regional qualifying events.
1) Teammates are not required to be legally
2) Helmets are not required for the carried
competitor. (The Worlds requires a helmet.)
3) The only special equipment allowed to be worn
by the carrier is a belt, which is optional.
4) There is no minimum weight limit for the
female competitor. (The Worlds set a weight
limit of 49 kilograms / 108 pounds, and weight
belts are used to make up any difference in
1) Length of course is 254 meters / 278 yards.
North American courses are typically run on
uneven ground with some level of elevation
change. The Worlds are run on a flat track.
2) Course design includes two dry obstacles and
one water obstacle, however the specific
obstacle designs may vary by year.
1) Competitors run the course two at a time in
initial heats, with each team being timed. The
two fastest teams qualify for a final heat,
which may be timed or untimed, with the winner
of the final heat being the winner of the event.
Because the final heat is determined by time,
qualifying teams do not necessarily have to win
their initial heat. Additional heats may be run
for third place, and on.
2) If a competitor drops his teammate, their
team will be penalized with five seconds added
to their time.
3) Teams may not advance on the course without
the wife being carried, and will be disqualified
if they do not carry their wife the entire
length of the course.
4) There is no restriction on how the female
teammate is carried. Several types of carry are
commonly used including the Piggyback and
Fireman's Carry (over the shoulder). However,
the most popular is the Estonian Carry in which
the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around
the husband's shoulders, holding onto his waist.
Contacts & Event Sanctioning
Sunday River Resort owns the North American Wife Carrying
Championship and serves as the sanctioning body for the sport in
the U.S. and Canada. To sanction a wife carrying event in the
U.S. or Canada and pre-qualify winners for the North American
Championship contact the
Sunday River Events team.
For media inquiries regarding the North American Championship
including photos and video of past events, and press access for
future events contact
the Communications team
at Sunday River.