The Golden Snitch was originally not a ball, but a little magical bird called a Golden Snidget. It was introduced in 1269, when the Chief of the Wizards' Council, Barberus Bragge, unleashed a Golden Snidget during a Quidditch match, offering a reward of 150 Galleons to the player who caught the Snidget.
Thereafter, it became customary to set frightened Snidgets loose during games. As a tribute to Bragge, 150 points were given to the team that caught the Snidget. This Snidget-catching craze naturally harmed the bird's population (as Snidgets are very fragile birds, and a simple human grip is enough to crush them to death), but the wizarding community was then unwilling to stop this barbaric activity and ceased to use Snidgets only when the bird was labelled as endangered.
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