A History of Polo

A history of the game of Polo

Early Polo in Persia
Early Polo being played in Persia

The sport of Polo is without doubt the oldest ball game in the world.

A game of Central Asian origin, Polo was first played in Persia (Iran) at dates given from the 6th century BC to the 1st century AD.

Polo was at first a training game for cavalry units, usually the king's guard or other elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen, who played it with as many as 100 to a side, it was a miniature battle.

In time Polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility. Women as well as men played the game, as indicated by references to the queen and her ladies engaging King Khosrow II Parviz and his courtiers in the 6th century AD.

Valuable for training Cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. Known in the East as the Game of Kings, Tamer lane's Polo grounds can still be seen in Samarkand.

British tea planters in India witnessed the game in the early 1800's but it was not until the 1850's that the British Cavalry drew up the earliest rules and by the 1869's the game was well established in England.

The first club in England, the Monmouthshire, was founded in 1872 and others, including Hurlingham, followed quickly. Handicaps were introduced by the USA in 1888 and by England and India in 1910.

Polo being played in the 1900 Olympics
Polo being played in the 1900 Olympics

From 1900 to 1939, Polo was an Olympic discipline and has now been recognized again by the International Olympic Committee.

After the last war, mechanization of the cavalry - the traditional 'nursery' for Polo players - and national austerity boded ill for the future of the game. But the enthusiasm of players such as the 3rd Viscount Cowdray, 'father' of modern English Polo, saw a revival in the late 1940s.

Polo today

Snow Polo in St.Moritz, Switzerland
Snow Polo in St.Moritz, Switzerland

Polo is played in around eighty countries worldwide. Indeed, unlike most sports, it is played somewhere in the world all year round - from England to Argentina, from the USA to India and from Switzerland (yes, there is even snow Polo) to the Gulf.

The premier Polo nations are Argentina, England and the USA, followed closely by Australia and New Zealand. There has recently been a popular renaissance of the game in India, with many of the old princely states and families taking up the sport of their fathers; while in Europe, Santa MarĂ­a Polo club, Sotogrande, is fast becoming one of the finest high-goal centres in the world.

To date there are three main clubs in Scotland; The Dundee and Perth Polo Club, The Edinburgh Polo Club, Stewarton Polo Club, and The Border Reivers Polo Club.