It is to the credit of humanity that the original practice of this eighteenth-century “sport” was suppressed, in England and America, before the close of the same century.
As practiced, by men and boys, a broomstick was cast from a distance of twenty yards at a cock tied by a cord attached to its leg.
A small fee for the privilege was demanded by the owner, and he who succeeded in killing the bird might carry it off.
But if the bird were merely lamed, it was propped up so that the sport might continue.
It is the opinion of Professor Hans Sperber of Ohio State University (Language, vol. 31, 1955) that the verb “to shy,” in the sense “to throw,” descended from this sport, for it was the custom of the owner of such a bird to teach it in advance to become wary of objects thrown at it.
That is, to quote, “in order to make the throwing competition a lucrative venture, it is necessary to make the bird shy, or, as it certainly would be expressed, to shy him. Since this ‘shying’ was accomplished by throwing at him, shy became a restricted synonym of throw.”