The History of Polo, the World’s Oldest Team Sport

Polo pic

Polo
Image: polomuseum.com

Lisa M. Nousek, partner at the Boies, Schiller & Flexner, LLP firm of Armonk, New York, has quickly established herself as a capable civil litigation attorney, gaining recognition as a top-rated Super Lawyer only eight years after earning her juris doctor. In her spare time, Lisa M. Nousek is fond of caring for and riding horses, and has come to enjoy playing and actively supporting polo, a game with a history longer than any other team sport played today.

Polo originated among the horse-riding nomads of Central Asia, most likely as a form of training and exercise for mounted combat skills. It eventually passed to Persia some time around 600 BC, when the first recorded game was played between Persians and Turkomans (the ancestors of modern Turks). While the current game is limited to three or four players per team, the oldest teams could constitute a small horde of up to 100 players per side. Given the prestige and historically exorbitant expense of raising well-bred horses, polo was long limited to the wealthy and aristocratic classes, lending polo the nickname the sport of kings.

After the Persians established formal rules for polo, the game spread outward throughout Asia, from Constantinople in the far west, to Japan in the far east. However, the Manipur state of Northern India, became the birthplace of the most modern iteration of the sport when British military officers and tea planters observed the game in 1859 and decided to form their own polo club, importing the sport to England. Through British influence, the game spread beyond Asia into every other continent, even returning to its roots as a war game thanks to its adoption and support by the US Army’s West Point academy in 1901.

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