Then, the game begins. The leather hood is released into the crowd, who has to get the tube to one of the four pubs. The hood cannot be thrown or run with. It has to move by "swaying", which means that whoever had a hold of the hood must be pushed and pulled towards the pubs by the crowd. As holding the hood is a necessity, wrestling it from someone then licking it when they try and grab it back is an acceptable tactic.
At times, upwards of three or four hundred people are in the "sway," or scrum trying to move the hood, and it frequently collapses into a pile of burly gentlemen, with one small, runty chap at the bottom shouting "get off, get off, I can't breathe! No, seriously, guys, I can't fucking breathe."
The sway, which drunkenly weaves through the village, tends to flatten anything in its path, from hedges and bushes to walls and children. The game usually takes a few hours before the hood is finally dragged into the pub whose owner gave out the most free beer.
For The Love of God, Why?
The story is that in the fourteenth century, Lady de Mowbray, the wife of a local landowner, John De Mowbray, was riding around her land when a gust of wind whipped her silk hood off and into a field. Thirteen laborers scampered around the muck and filth trying to rescue the hood, presumably having a merry time doing so, and then returned the hood to the lady. The lady deemed this so much fun that she gave up 13 acres of land for the chase to be re-enacted every year, which it has been ever since, though quite why everyone now needs to don stupid clothes and get blind drunk is a mystery.
The story may have some basis in truth, as there was a Lord de Mowbray living in the area 700 years ago, and he may well have had a wife. The rest may be a legend invented by someone who simply liked enormous, town-wide drunken brawls.