The 5 oldest sports in the world

Published by Simone D | May 18th 2021 | Updated 21 November 2022

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.

Sport is an essential part of life for many. While it's recreational now, sport once existed as a training ground for hunters and fighters, which is why sports like javelin throwing took precedence. Sport was created by the ancient Greeks, notorious for their partying ways, who were the first to put on an event celebrating the feats of the human body – one we now know as the Olympic Games. It began in 776 BCE and a cook known as Coroebus became the world's first Olympiad, winning a 192-metre footrace. Nowadays, the Olympics has evolved into a celebration of all manners of sports but many still wonder – what is the oldest sport in the world? 


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 come as little surprise that running is included in this top five mainly 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 BCE. 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, it's worth remembering just how many centuries of people have been enjoying them before you. There's a history that made them what they are.  


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