History of Polo

A Short History of Polo
By Alex Webbe

Images of polo in persian art.

The sport of polo is believed to have emerged from ancient Persia.  Historians have traced the origins of polo back over 2,500 years ago.

Polo was originally used as a training exercise for the cavalry.  The Moguls have been credited with taking the game from Persia to the east.  The strategic game resembles military tactics, and while the game has adapted throughout time, the basic concepts remain the same.

In the 1850s, British, British tea planters discovered the game being played by local tribesmen in Manipur, on the Burmese border with India. They founded the world’s first polo club at Silchar, west of Manipur. The oldest club in the world that is still in existence is the Calcutta Club, which was founded in 1862.

In 1868, the game was introduced to Malta by troops returning to England from India.  In 1869, Edward “Chicken” Hartopp, of the 10th Hussars, read an account of the game in The Field magazine while stationed at Aldershot and, with fellow officers, organized the first polo game in England. Then known as “hockey on horseback,” it was played on a field at Hounslow Heath.

The first regular match in England was played at Hounslow in 1869 between the 10th Hussars and the 9th Lancers with eight on a side.  The 10th Hussars won by three goals to two.

John Watson (1856-1908), of the 13th Hussars, formulated the first real rules of the game in India in the 1870s. He later formed the celebrated Freebooters team who won the first Westchester Cup match in 1886.

After observing the game in England, New York Herald newspaper owner James Gordon Bennett, Jr., brought back a bunch of mallets and balls in 1876, gathered a railroad car of Texas cow ponies and staged the first polo match indoors, at Dickel’s Riding Academy in New York City.  The game moved outdoors that following spring where it was played at the Jerome Park Racetrack.  The United States Polo Association was founded in 1890.

The British Army has been credited with introducing the game around the world.

The first international competition took place in 1886 when the United States unsuccessfully challenged an English team.

Polo continues to be played in over 77 countries with efforts being made by the International Polo Federation (FIP) to return it to the Olympics (played in the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936).  It is most popular in Argentina, England and the United States currently make up over half of the world’s players.

Return of the Game of Kings Video History of International Polo in the Pan American Games and Olympics.

Comments

  1. David Ragland says:

    This is excellent! Polo needs more things like 101 polo to spread the word and gain
    participation. It truly is the game for both gender and all ages.

    Great Job!
    David Ragland, Oklahoma City

  2. David Ragland says:

    The history fo Polo is marveluously presented and create the kind of presentation that will
    help give new comer the desire to learn more.

    very nice!

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