Sports have been a part of the human lifestyle since the earliest civilizations of humans. In ancient times, people engaged in sports for entertainment and recreational purposes, while in the modern era, sports have been turned into full-time careers for many athletes around the globe. Each of such ancient sports traces back to a different region and culture. Moreover, current-day sports evolved out of the activities and equipment people back in the day used for survival reasons.
Many of these ancient sports are in practice today in some form or another. This article has compiled a list of the ten oldest sports still on the scene according to various statistical data analyses. Read along to find the answer to: What is the oldest sport?
Let’s dive in without any delay.
Wrestling is one of the oldest Olympic sports still played today. The earliest evidence found on wrestling dates back to 15,300 years ago in the Upper Paleolithic era through cave paintings depicting wrestlers in Lascaux, France.
Furthermore, many cave illustrations of wrestling are also found in ancient caves worldwide, in Libya, Mongolia, and prehistoric caves in Japan.
Also, a papyrus fragment, dating back between 100 AD and 200 AD, was found that demonstrated the instructions for wrestling.
The oldest literary references to wrestling occur in the ancient Indian Vedas and the Old Testament. The earliest wrestling competitions were held in the ancient Olympics in ancient Greece.
- Professional debut: In France in the 1830s
- First tournament: In New York City in 1888
- Olympic Games debut: In 1896
It has gained massive popularity since its first competition and is considered one of the most well-liked and enjoyable sports.
Running is second on the list of the world’s oldest sports. It is still skeptical when and where running originated, but the earliest depictions are found in the caves of Lascaux, France dating back 15,300 years ago.
Also, running was the only sport in the first-ever documented Olympics staged in Athens in 776 BC.
Running has now evolved as one of the most popular sports with diverse participants. Moreover, nowadays, people enjoy running more to achieve health goals.
- Region of origin: France
- Professional debut: In Ireland back in 1831
3. Javelin Throw
The javelin throw is another sport that has been a part of ancient Olympics dating back to 708 BC and is still a significant part of today’s modern Olympics.
It is a field and track sport where participants throw a stick-like instrument called a javelin as far as possible. It was first included in the 1906 Olympics Games.
In the early years, the spears thrown were much lighter than current-day javelins.
- The earliest evidence found: 280,000 years ago
- Region of origin: Ancient Olympics in Greece
Alternatively known as the Rich Man’s game, Polo is the replica of hockey; both teams are on the horse’s back and try to outscore the opposing team by putting a small wooden ball into the goal using a long-handled mallet.
The earliest evidence of Polo dates back to 316 AD in the Persian Empire in central Asia.
However, the modernization of the sport traces back to British India, with the first polo club being established in 1833.
Boxing is a combat sport that tests the boxer’s strength, speed, and stamina by throwing punches.
The earliest documented evidence of boxing dates back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, while the first combat with hand protection existed between 900 and 1500 BC. It was added to the ancient Greek Olympics Games in 688 BC.
It was a popular sport in ancient Rome, where fighters used to wrap leather thongs around their fists.
Boxing in the bygone Roman era was more of a fight to the death, so it is weird calling it a sport.
- The territory of origin: Sumerian civilization, also known as current-day Iraq.
- Modern Olympics Games debut: 1904
Gymnastics is believed to have been introduced by the Greeks.
This sport is associated with military training as it tests the participant’s flexibility, physical strength, balance, and agility.
The historical background of gymnastics still needs to be clarified, but modern gymnastics dates back to two German physical educators in the 18th century who created the apparatus for this practice.
Nowadays, gymnastics consists of multiple disciplines that display both mental and physical strength education. It has been included in every Olympics game since 1896.
What is the oldest sport in America? Football!
Football is another one of the oldest sports still practiced today, dating back to 200 – 300 BC.
It is also considered the oldest sport in the US and started as a professional sport with official rules & regulations in the late 1870s in England.
- The territory of origin: China
- The earliest evidence was found in China with a sport called Tsu Chu or Cuju.
Hurling is another ancient sport still on the scene today as the national sport of Ireland and has been practiced for over three thousand years.
The earliest literary reference to this sport dates back to 1272 BC. Despite being so old, hurling didn’t become a worldwide sport.
It is a cooperative sport played with a stick called Hurley and a solitary ball. The primary objective is to hit the ball into the opposing team’s goalposts.
Hockey is another team sport that involves maneuvering a ball or pick into the opponent’s goalpost using a curved stick called hockey.
The sport of hockey is traced back to ancient Greece. Many images of people using a curved stick and a ball for playing date back to 600 BC.
Initially, this sport was called “Shinty,” Edward III of England used the term “hockey” for the first time in 1363. Furthermore, when the British Empire expanded overseas in the 1800s, they introduced this game globally.
Debut in modern Olympics Games: 1908
10. Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is another ancient sport that is still popular today. It evaluates the rider’s physical strength, balance, skill, and endurance.
Despite fitting into every definition of sport, many people still consider it a leisure activity—the use of horses for transportation purposes and in the military dates back the ancient times.
Horseback riding was initially featured in the Olympics Games in 1900. Kazakhstan is said to be its territory of origin, and the earliest evidence dates back to 3500 BCE.
What Is The Oldest Winter Olympic Sport?
Figure skating is the oldest winter Olympic sport that was initially added to the summer Olympics Games in 1908 but eventually transitioned to Winter Olympics in 1924.
It includes several events such as men’s single, women’s single, pairs, and a mixed team event.