What comes to mind when you hear the word derby? Many children might immediately think of a famous horse race, like the Kentucky Derby. Believe it or not, though, there are actually many different types of derbies all around the world. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways “derby” is used.

The annual Kentucky Derby is probably one of the most famous derbies in the world. After all, fans do call it “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” It’s not the only derby when it comes to horse racing, though.

In horse racing, “derby” can refer to any horse race limited to three-year-old horses. The term came from the Derby Stakes, a famous horse race in England that was named after Edward Smith-Stanley, the 12th Earl of Derby.

There’s another type of derby that is popular all around the world, and it doesn’t involve horses. What is it? The roller derby!

Roller derby is a contact sport that features two teams of five members each roller skating around a track. Each team picks one player — called the “jammer” — who can score points by skating fast enough to lap members of the other team. The teams play offense and defense at the same time, as they try to help their own jammer while hindering the other team’s jammer.

Although some men play on roller derby teams, the sport is dominated mainly by women. It developed from roller skating marathons that were popular in the 1930s. Today, it is a popular sport that is very entertaining to watch.

Besides horse racing and the roller derby, derby is also used in other sports. For example, in England, they use the term “derby” (and pronounce it “darby”) to refer to soccer matches between local rivals. In the United States, we might call such matches “crosstown rivalries.”

“Derby” can also refer to a more general type of competition. In American baseball, for example, the Home Run Derby is held each year before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Home Run Derby is a contest to see which of the top home run hitters can hit the most home runs in a short competition.

If you’re a Cub Scout, then you probably know of another type of derby: the pinewood derby! The pinewood derby is a traditional event in which Cub Scouts race wooden cars they’ve carved by hand from a block of pine wood. The pinewood derby got its start in 1953 when a Cub Scout leader had the idea of creating a miniature version of the Soap Box Derby races popular at that time.

Did you have any idea that the word “derby” could be used in so many ways? Although they’re not all races, most derbies do tend to be related to competition in some way. But there’s one that’s not!

Would you believe you can wear a derby? It’s true! In the United States, the word “derby” is used to refer to that popular and stylish hat often known as a bowler hat!

14 Join the Discussion

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  1. I liked today’s WONDER. When I saw derby, I thought of Kentucky Derby. Then I thought of another one, but I forgot what it was. I think there’s a Kentucky Derby track by my house. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about Annie!!!

    Emily =)

    • How cool that you have a derby track so close to your house, Emily! We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing with us today, especially since you learned something new about another type of derby! Thanks for commenting, and as always, have a WONDERful day! :)

  2. Yay, first one to write a comment today, I’m on a roll on this whole week. Oh, my favorite derby is roller derby. I’m the master of skaters, I can go through people at the speed of light. :)

    • Thanks for your WONDERful comment today, Carlos! Speaking of being on a roll, you must be a SUPER skater if you can zoom around on the rink! We think it’s awesome that you know how to skate– we hope you’ve got your helmet handy for your next fun skating adventure! Have a GREAT day! :)

  3. Cool wonder! Did you get to watch the Olympics this summer? My favorite part of it was the swimming, volleyball, and beach volleyball.

    • Glad you liked WONDERing about other types of derbies, Julie! We LOVED watching the Olympians compete in their respective sports– it is incredible to see such great athletes! We loved watching the events you mentioned– we just loved cheering on all these WONDERful athletes! :)

    • We couldn’t agree more, John! Derbies of all kinds involve lots of hard work and determination! :) We are so happy that you posted your comment about derbies and races– we LOVE all the WONDERing you are doing! Keep up the GREAT work! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Is every derby a race?
  • What is roller derby?
  • Can you wear a derby?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

So what kind of derby would you want to compete in? Does the roller derby sound fun? Or maybe a soccer match against your biggest rival is more your type of derby…

Tell us about the most exciting competition you’ve ever been a part of. It could be a baseball game, a spelling bee or the 100-yard dash at school.

What was the most exciting part of the competition? Post your story to Facebook for all your Wonder Friends to read. We can’t wait to read your story!

Still Wondering

In Illuminations’ Telling Racing Stories lesson, children model races in which runners start from various positions.

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