The 5 oldest sports in the world

Last updated on May 18th 2021 by Simone

Sports have always been an important part of everyday life. People have been participating in sports for enjoyment and health for centuries, dating back to the Late Stone Age, where it's believed sports were first invented. Even in the early days, sports were considered viable careers and some of the most ancient sports are still popular today.  Here are some of the world's oldest sports in history.


Wrestling is considered to be the oldest sport in the world. We know this because of a set of famous cave paintings in Lascaux, France, dating back 15,300 years ago which depict wrestlers. And it wasn't just in France either; paintings with illustrated wresters have been found in caves all over the world, from 7000 BC in Mongolia, from 6000 BC in Libya and in prehistoric caves in Japan. A papyrus fragment was found with wrestling instructions on it, dating somewhere between 100 and 200 AD. And after all this time, it is still one of the most popular sports in the world.


It should not come as much of a surprise that running is included in this top five because it is the most accessible sport. Running is a universal human expression and always will be. It was the only sport actually recorded in the first Olympics in 776 BC. The sport included four different kind of running competitions.

Javelin Throwing

Javelin throwing is yet another sport that was part of the early Olympics, and one still part of the modern day Olympic games. It is a track and field sport in which a javelin is thrown as far as possible. The first javelin throwing was included in the Olympics in 708 BC, but only introduced to the modern day Olympics in 1906. In earlier times, the spears that were thrown were much lighter than now.

 The first javelin throwing was included in the Olympics in 708 BC, but only introduced to the modern day Olympics in 1906


Polo was played for the first time during the Persian Empire in Central Asia, by emperors. Polo is a team sport played on horses, where both teams try to score by hitting a small wooden ball into the goal. The first documented evidence of this sport dates back to 316 AD. The modern game was developed in India during the British Empire, with it's first polo club being established in 1833.


The game of hockey can already be traced back to ancient Greece. Images of people playing with a curved stick and ball have been found dating back to 600 BCE. The sport was originally called 'Shinty' and the first time the word 'Hockey' was used, was in 1363 by Edward III of England. When the British Empire expanded overseas in the 1800s, they introduced the game and made it immensely popular worldwide.

Hockey was first called 'Shinty' until the Brits renamed it later on

So next time you watch or play any of these sports, remember just how many centuries of people have been enjoying them before you. There's a history that made them what they are.  


Explore our sports auctions for memorabilia. Or register as a seller and start bidding now. 

Discover more Sports & Events 

You might also like these articles:

How to Determine if the Autograph on Your Sports Memorabilia is Genuine

The Most Expensive FIFA World Cup Items Ever Sold

How to Invest in Sports Memorabilia

Create your free account
At Catawiki, you’ll be surprised every week with the impressive selection of special objects we have on offer. Create your free account today and explore our weekly auctions curated by our team of experts.
Share this article
Close Created with Sketch.
Not registered yet?
By creating your free Catawiki account, you’ll be able to bid on any of our 65,000 special objects up for auction every week.
Register now