Have you ever issued a challenge? If you’re like most kids, you’ve probably mastered a video game and wanted to show your friends or parents how good you are. If you’ve ever dared someone to take you on, then you’ve challenged them to a duel!

For hundreds of years, dueling has been a part of many different societies, from knights to cowboys. These one-on-one showdowns took the basic fight to another level. Instead of raucous, lawless fighting, duels pit two people against each other in a controlled environment with set rules.

Old-fashioned duels often involved swords or guns. They also often ended in serious injury or even death. Duels were serious business — not a friendly competition.

You may have seen an old movie or cartoon at one time or another in which two cowboys dueled at noon in front of a crowd. As they walked away from each other with their backs turned, someone would shout “Draw!” and they would turn to fire at each other. This was the classic Wild West cowboy duel.

Why did people do this? Although sometimes duels stemmed from what people believed to be serious violations, at other times they arose out of meaningless situations. When someone felt his honor had been questioned, a duel often followed, even if it didn’t seem like a matter of life-or-death!

Long ago, honor and respect was very important. One of the easiest ways to lose honor was to be considered a coward. The best way to avoid being considered a coward was to accept all challenges to a duel — and to challenge anyone who insulted you to a duel!

An official set of dueling rules — called the Code Duello — was developed by the Irish in 1777. These rules were actually included by the U.S. Navy in official handbooks up until 1862 when dueling by naval officers was finally banned.

Dueling was ultimately about recovering honor, not necessarily injury or death. To that extent, duels became a model for other forms of modern competition. Today, duels aren’t commonplace like they used to be hundreds of years ago…and many don’t include weapons at all!

For example, musical instruments can now be used to duel. There are dueling banjos and dueling pianos. These duels pit two instrumentalists against each other in a friendly competition of skill. The winner? The audience! These types of duels are now a popular form of entertainment.

28 Join the Discussion

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  1. I knew a lot about today’s wonder. I have seen 1 show were two cowboys battle when I was littler. Duels are awesome I like to fence with my friends and family.

    I think tomorrow’s wonder will be where is the fastest roller-coaster.

    • How cool, Wondergirl101! We bet you have to practice a LOT to learn how to fence correctly and safely! Sounds like a good time! Thanks for WONDERing with us… see you soon! :)

  2. My brothers had a duel and it did not well. Nobody got hurt. It was a video game brawl and my older brother won by 200 points!

    • Wow, it sounds like a fun way to test your video game skills, Bernard! Thanks for sharing your family competition with us! :)

  3. Hey guys it’s me wonder girl rocks today’s wonder was so awesome I don’t know what to say. I WONDER … would it be considered as a duel if me and my brother always fight aganist each other? THANKS YOU ROCK!!!!

    • A duel can come in many forms, Wonder girl rocks! We hope it’s a friendly duel, even if it is between you and your brother! :)

  4. Today’s wonder was really interesting. I have seen a musical duel, but never a shooting duel. I think today’s wonder was fascinating. Thank you!! :)

    • WOW, your musical duel sounds like a great big ball of fun, Berkleigh! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Wonder Friend! We hope to see you soon! :)

  5. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I’m sorry I haven’t commented in a looooooooonnnnnnngggggggggggggggg time. I’v been really super-duper busy with my school work. I’m in the 5th grade now so I have lots of school work. It’s good to be reading your blog again. I know what duels are. Some times duels are fun to watch. Me and my friends have them all the time. I look forward to tomorrow wonder of the day. Bye Wonderopolis. 8) :) ;)


    • Hooray, our Wonder Friend Cealah is back today! We bet 5th grade has been keeping you really busy! Thanks for coming back to visit with us, we hope to see you soon! Until then, have a WONDERful day! :)

  6. The video was pretty funny. We have heard of duels a lot in the world. Our question is does the word rematch have the same definition as duels? Thank you for this awesome wonder, that gets our brains thinking!

    • Hello to our Wonder Friends Andrea and Natalie! We have been WONDERing about rematches, too! A rematch means “to duel again”… just like replay, rebound, or repeat all mean to “do something again”. We’re glad you’ve been thinking about duels on your own– keep up the WONDERing! :)

  7. Yesterday I was watching “The Three Musketeers” and there was a lot of dueling. I loved today’s wonder. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about roller-coasters!

    • What a great example of dueling, Grace R! We think that the book and movie, “The Three Musketeers” reminds us that team work is important! We’re looking forward to seeing you tomorrow… until then… one for all and all for one! :)

  8. Hi wonderopolis! I’m so excited for you to come in my classroom. Me and my friend are very interested in dueling. I’ve always wanted to duel but…have a WONDERful day! Rylie from Mrs. Phillips’ class.

    • We’re excited to hear that some of our Wonder Friends will be visiting all of you very soon! We hope you have a SUPER day, Rylie! We are glad that you’ve been WONDERing with us! :)

  9. Back in the old, old west their was a beautiful young lady named D. She was the best dueler in town that nobody would mess with her. One day that young lady lost all her pride because she had gotten her arm shot by an unpredictable child, because that beautiful lady stepped on the child’s foot on accident and mistakenly thought it was on purpose. So she challenged her to a duel. That lady could not back down and be a wimp so she went and dueled her. That lady was me! (Made up story originally told by me)
    Sincerely Danielle :)

    • We really like the way you started that story, Danielle. “Back in the old, old West…” is a great way to paint a picture of the scene! Thanks for sharing your creative and original story with us! We’re happy to hear that our Wonder inspired you! :)

    • You’re right, Cool Jaedon! We wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt! It’s important to remember to be safe when you’re learning a new sport, including fencing! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a duel?
  • Did duels have rules?
  • Do you have to duel with weapons?

Wonder Gallery

DuelVimeo Video

Try It Out

Wonderopolis challenges all its Wonder Friends to a duel! That’s right! A duel!

Put down your swords and pistols, though. No pianos or banjos will be required either. This duel is one of WONDER!

Can you, dear Wonder Friends, come up with some WONDERful new ideas for Wonders of the Day? If you think so, duel it out with your other Wonder Friends.

Share your ideas for Wonders of the Day in the comments section below, on Facebook, on Twitter or on our Nominate a Wonder of the Day page. We can’t wait to get your ideas!

Still Wondering

In Illuminations’ Deep Sea Duel student interactive, children play against Okta, who challenges them to a duel!

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Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will take you for a ride…for a fee!

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