Hoofers got its name when UW Chemistry Professor Doc Bradley and Memorial Union Director Porter Butts organized the student outing club in 1931. A fledgling committee of six members decided to model the club after Dartmouth’s, the largest such organization at the time. Dartmouth called their new members Heelers. The UW group chose the name Hoofers to evoke a sense of “getting there under your own power.” New members, called Heels, could graduate to full Hoofer status by participating in club activities and by a vote of the current members.
From the beginning, one of Hoofers' primary purposes was to make outing equipment available. The group first set up shop with an inventory of three pairs of skis and ten toboggans. They revamped the Observatory Hill toboggan slide, a wooden structure built in the late 1800s, and rented out the toboggans.
With 22 active Hoofers and 30 Heels, Hoofers wrote its first constitution in 1933 to help guide the organization’s growth. The terms Hoofer and Heel were retained, and one more category was added: Prospect, to designate people who had expressed interest but had not yet become active. Initiation fees were $1, with yearly dues of 25 cents.
Though a student organization, Hoofers membership has always been open to the larger university community. Over the years, Hoofers added various clubs, including six that are still offered today — outing, riding, mountaineering, scuba, ski and snowboard, and sailing — and thousands of active members.