Using nineteenth century Ireland as a case study this article argues that historians have overlooked the significance of the recreational element in studying violence. While not discounting economic, social and psychological factors the Irish evidence indicates that at times violence served as a sport and that assaults and even homicides were sometimes motivated by nothing stronger than the enjoyment of what those involved viewed as a pleasant pastime. The article looks specifically at faction s fights as well as other brawls. It considers the roles of rules and rituals, gender, weapons, alcohol and celebration in encouraging and evaluating recreational violence. The reactions to deaths and serious injuries resulting from these encounters indic ate that physical harm was viewed as an accidental byproduct rather than a predictable outcome of the violence. The major concern was that recreational violence might reflect badly on the Irish in the eyes of the British. The article concludes by suggesti ng that an appreciation of recreational violence is a prominent part of many cultures and can still be found in contemporary society.