One of the toys little boys play with is the “hobby-horse”. This is a long stick fitted with a wooden horse’s head, painted to look real. The child puts this between his legs, and prances about, pretending to be riding a horse. From this word “hobby-horse” we get the word hobby, an amusement; and we speak of a man’s “riding” his hobby.
Properly, a hobby is any interesting subject or pursuit, not our main business, which we take up for our amusement in our leisure hours. What is a business to one man may be a hobby to another. For example, a professional photographer may have gardening as his hobby; and a paid gardener may make a hobby of photography.
There are many different kinds of hobbies. Many take the form of collecting. Some collect foreign stamps or coins. Others make collections of wild flowers’ and ferns, and press and mount their specimens. Others again collect sea-shells, or fossils, or different kinds of rocks or crystals. Such hobbies do not cost much and are within the reach of all. But others, such as collecting pictures, rare old books, curios and antiques, are only for the rich.
Photography makes an interesting and instructive hobby; any, for those who have the gift, sketching and painting and wood-carving. Almost anyone can learn carpentry and picture-framing. Ladies take up knitting and crochet-work, and embroidery in silks.
Many people take an interest in gardening; especially in the cultivation of some special flowers, such as roses. And boys especially like keeping animal pets, such as rabbits, pigeons and white-mice.
Still other hobbies take the form of games and sport. Open-air games, such as golf, tennis, cricket or football, or indoor games, such as chess, draughts and card-games, are the favourite amusements of many people in their leisure hours. Men make all kinds of sport into hobbies, such as hunting, fishing, boating, and yachting.
It is a good thing to have a hobby of some sort. A boy with a hobby is kept happy on his holidays, and is hot so likely to get into mischief as when he has nothing to amuse himself with. A good hobby will give him not only much pleasure, but also instruction. And a hobby is a God-send to an old man who has retired after a busy life, and has no work to occupy his time. A man who has not cultivated a hobby feels lost when he has to retire from business and has nothing to do.
So, to parody an old saying, it saves one from a thousand snares to ride a hobby young.