THE HISTORY OF POLO

 

The exact origin of polo, the oldest team sport, is unknown. Polo was probably first played by nomadic warriors over two thousand years ago.

The first recorded game took place in 600BC when the Turkomans beat the Persians in a public match. Used for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan in the Middle Ages.

In the 16th century AD a polo ground was built in the ancient city of Ispahan, then the capital of Persia, by Shah Abbas the Great. Today, still used as a public park, it is the same size as a modern polo field with its original stone goal posts in place.

The British army and British tea planters introduced the West to the galloping game. Captain Robert Stewart and Major General Joe Sherer saw a polo match while stationed in the Indian state of Manipur on the Burmese border, and in 1859 founded the first polo club in Silchar, west of Manipur. In 1862 Calcutta Polo Club, the oldest still existing polo club was founded.

Today, the oldest polo clubs outside India are the Malta Polo Club (founded in 1868 by British officers returning  from India), the All Ireland Polo Club in Dublin (1872) and the Monmouthshire Polo Club in Wales (1872).

In 1869 Edward "Chicken" Hartopp of the 10th Hussars organized the first polo game in England - known then as "hockey on horseback"- on Hounslow Heath against the 9th Lancers.

In 1875 Thomas St. Quintin of the 10th Hussars introduced the polo to Australia and two of his brothers stayed on there as ranchers and helped the game to develop.

In the same year the first official match in Argentina took place, where the game had been taken by English and Irish engineers and ranchers. From then on, the game spread powerfully across the country and Argentina is today the country where the highest level of polo in the world is played.

James Gordon Bennett, an American publisher who had seen the game while on a visit to England, is credited for introducing the sport of polo to the United States. He organized a polo match at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City in May 1876. The oldest polo club in Canada is the Calgary Polo Club which was founded in 1883.

Today, upwards of 77 countries play polo. It was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1939 and has now been recognized again by the International Olympic Committee.