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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Polo Players

Polo is a team sport played on horseback in which the objective is to score goals against an opposing team. Players score by driving a small white plastic or wooden ball into the opposing team's goal using a long-handled mallet. The traditional sport of polo is played at speed on a large grass field up to 300 yards in length, and each polo team consists of four riders and their mounts.


Polo variants on horseback

A modern variant is called arena polo which is played indoors or more commonly outdoors on an enclosed all-weather surface (the field of play is much smaller, rarely exceeding 100 yards in length). In arena polo there are only three players on each team and a small inflatable leather ball is used instead. Arena polo matches usually consist of four 6 minute periods (called chukkas or chukkers), as opposed to field polo matches which consist of between four and eight 7 minute chukkas (depending on the level being played). A form of arena polo seen almost exclusively in the western United States is cowboy polo.

A recent variant is beach polo, a close variant of arena polo, played on sand in Dubai and Miami and most recently in the UK.

Another modern variant is snow polo, which is played on compacted snow on flat ground or a frozen lake. The format of snow polo varies depending on the space available. Each team generally consists of three players and a bright colored light plastic ball is preferred.[citation needed]

A popular combination of the sports of polo and lacrosse is the game of polocrosse, which was developed in Australia in the late 1930s.

These sports are considered as separate sports because of the differences in the composition of teams, equipment, rules, game facilities etc.

Other polo variants

Polo is not played exclusively on horseback. Such polo variants are mostly played for recreational or touristic purposes; they include canoe polo, cycle polo, camel polo, elephant polo, golfcart polo, Segway polo, BMX polo, yak polo, water polo, and spongee polo.


A game first played in Persia/Iran at dates given from the 5th century BC, or much earlier,[1] to the 1st century AD and originated there.[2] Polo was at first a training game for cavalry units, usually the king's guard or other elite troops. To the warlike tribesmen, who played it with as many as 100 to a side, it was a miniature battle.[3] In time polo became an Iranian national sport played extensively by the nobility. Women as well as men played the game, as indicated by references to the queen and her ladies engaging King Khosrow II Parviz and his courtiers in the 6th century AD.[4] Certainly Persian literature and art give us the richest accounts of polo in antiquity. Ferdowsi, the famed Iranian poet-historian, gives a number of accounts of royal polo tournaments in his 9th century epic, Shahnameh (the Epic of Kings). In the earliest account, Ferdowsi romanticizes an international match between Turanian force and the followers of Siyâvash, a legendary Iranian prince from the earliest centuries of the Empire; the poet is eloquent in his praise of Siyâvash's skills on the polo field. Ferdowsi also tells of Emperor Shapur II of the Sassanid dynasty of the 4th century who learned to play polo when he was only seven years old.[5]

From Persia, in medieval times polo spread to the Byzantines (who called it tzykanion), and after the Muslim conquests to the Ayyubid and Mameluke dynasties of Egypt and the Levant, whose favored it above all other sports. Notable sultans such as Saladin and Baybars were known to play it and encourage it in their court.[6] Polo sticks were features on the Mameluke precursor to modern day playing cards.

Later on Polo was passed from Persia to other parts of Asia including the Indian subcontinent[7] and China, where it was very popular during the Tang Dynasty and frequently depicted in paintings and statues. Valuable for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. Known in the East as the Game of Kings.[4] The name polo is said to have been derived from the Tibetan word "pulu", meaning ball.[8]

Old polo field in Imphal, Manipur
Tang Dynasty Chinese courtiers on horseback playing a game of polo, AD 706.

The modern game of polo, though formalized and popularized by the British, is derived from Manipur (now a state in India) who played the game known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'.[9] It was the anglicised form of the latter, referring to the wooden ball which was used, that was adopted by the sport in its slow spread to the west. The first polo club was established in the town of Silchar in Assam, India, in 1834.

The origins of the game in Manipur are traced to early precursors of Sagol Kangjei.[10] This was one of three forms of hockey in Manipur, the other ones being field hockey (called Khong Kangjei) and wrestling-hockey (called Mukna Kangjei). Local rituals such as those connected to the Marjing, the Winged-Pony God of Polo and the creation-ritual episodes of the Lai Haraoba festival enacting the life of his son, Khori-Phaba, the polo-playing god of sports. These may indicate an origin prior to the historical records of Manipur, which go back to the 1st Century A.D.

In Manipur, polo is traditionally played with seven players to a side. The players are mounted on the indigenous Manipuri pony, which stands less than 13 hands high. There are no goal posts and a player scored simply by hitting the ball out of either end of the field. Players were also permitted to carry the ball, though that allowed opponents to physically tackle players when they do so. The sticks were made of cane and the balls were made from the roots of bamboo. Colorful cloth pom-poms dangle at sensitive and vulnerable spots around the anatomy of the ponies in order to protect them. Players protected their legs by attaching leather shields to their saddles and girths.[11]

A terracotta female polo player, Tang Dynasty, early 8th century, Musée Guimet, Paris.

In Manipur, the game was not merely a "rich" game but was played even by commoners who owned a pony.[8] The kings of Manipur had a royal polo ground within the ramparts of their Kangla Fort. Here they played Manung Kangjei Bung (literally, "Inner Polo Ground”). Public games were held, as they are still today, at the Mapan Kangjei Bung (literally "Outer Polo Ground”), a polo ground just outside the Kangla. Weekly games called Hapta Kangjei (Weekly Polo) were also played in a polo ground outside the current Palace.

In 1862 the first polo club, Calcutta Polo Club was established by two British soldiers, Captain Robert Stewart and Major General Joe Shearer.[12] Later they spread the game to their peers in England. The British are credited with spreading polo worldwide in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. Military officers imported the game to Britain in the 1860s. The establishment of polo clubs throughout England and western Europe followed after the formal codification of rules.[11] The 10th Hussars at Aldershot, Hants, introduced polo to England in 1869. The game's governing body in the United Kingdom is the Hurlingham Polo Association, which drew up the first set of formal British rules in 1874, many of which are still in existence.

This version of polo played in the 19th century was different from the faster form that was played in Manipur. The game was slow and methodical, with little passing between players and few set plays that required specific movements by participants without the ball. Neither players nor horses were trained to play a fast, nonstop game. This form of polo lacked the aggressive methods and equestrian skills to play. From the 1800s to the 1910s, a host of teams representing Indian principalities dominated the international polo scene.[11]

Polo found popularity in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Pakistan and the United States of America.[13][14][15]

James Gordon Bennett, Jr. organized the first polo match in the United States at Dickel's Riding Academy at 39th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City. During the early part of the 20th century, under the leadership of Harry Payne Whitney, polo changed to become a high-speed sport in the United States, differing from the game in England, where it involved short passes to move the ball toward the opposition's goal. Whitney and his teammates used the fast break, sending long passes downfield to riders who had broken away from the pack at a full gallop.

The oldest polo ground in the world is the Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur State. The history of this pologround is contained in the royal chronicle "Cheitharol Kumbaba" starting from AD 33. Lieutenant Sherer, the father of modern polo visited the state and played on this polo ground in the 1850s. Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India visited the state in 1901 and measured the pologround as 225 yards long and 110 yards wide. The oldest royal polo square is the 16th century Gilgit Polo Field, Pakistan, while the highest polo ground in the world, Shandur, located in district Chitral, Pakistan at 4307 meters (14,000 ft).A traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit takes place every year in July. Maj Cobb from British Raj was a polo fan and he used to come to Shandur for playing polo on the invitation of Mehtar Chitral in moon light. The oldest polo club in the world still in existence is the Calcutta Polo Club (1862).

The game

Polo in Pakistan

Field polo requires two teams of 4 players. A full-size field is 300 yards long, and either 200 yards or 160 yards wide if there are side boards—these are generally 6" high. There are tall collapsible goalposts at each end of the field spread 8 yards apart. The object of the game is to score the most goals by hitting the ball through the goal. Ends are changed after a goal is scored.

In arena polo, which is popular in the United States, the size of the field is ideally 100 yards long by 50 yards wide. The size of arena fields in the United States, where arena polo was first played, is often more variable where indoor armories and riding academies are still occasionally used. The playing boundary is marked by high wooden walls (usually at least 6 feet high). Arena polo requires teams of three riders, and goals are scored by passing the ball into a 10-foot-wide by 12-foot-high goal recessed into the end walls. In arena polo ends are changed at the end of each 6-minute period (chukka or chukker) and not after a goal is scored. Arena polo uses a small leather ball between 12.5 and 15 inches in circumference and looks like a miniature football.

In Pakistan Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament between the teams of Chitral and Gilgit annually in July. The tournament is held on Shandur Pass, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters. The festival also includes Folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up.[15]

Gilgit, Chitral and Skardu have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, local Khans, Mirs and Mehtars were the patrons of the game. At times, more than 50% of the annual budget of their principalities would be spent on supporting the game[16]

A polo game has periods of play, known as chukkas (also chukkers). This term originated in 1898 and is derived from Hindi chakkar from Sanskrit chakra "circle, wheel" (compare chakka). Depending on the rules of the particular tournament or league, a game may have 4, 6 or 8 chukkas; 6 chukkas are most common[17] Usually, each chukka is 7 minutes long, but some games are played in shorter chukkas. Between chukkas, the players switch to fresh ponies. In less competitive polo leagues, players may play only two ponies, alternating between them. For more competitive leagues, and in United States intercollegiate polo, each pony is played in at most two chukkas.

Polo match in Jaipur

Games are often played with a handicap in which the sum of the individual players' respective handicaps are compared. The team with the lower handicap is given the difference in handicaps as goals before the start of the game.

The game begins with the two teams of four lined up each team in line forming two rows with the players in order 1, 2, 3, 4 facing the umpire in the center of the playing field. There are two mounted umpires on the field and a referee standing on the sidelines. At the beginning of a game, one of the umpires bowls the ball in hard between the two teams. Teams change goals on ends of the field/arena after each score or chukker for indoor to minimize any wind advantage which may exist. Switching sides also allows each team equal opportunity to start off with the ball on their right side, as all players must hit right-handed.

Polo ponies

Polo ponies waiting for the game to begin

The mounts used are called 'polo ponies', although the term pony is purely traditional and the mount is actually a full-sized horse. They range from 14.2 to 16 hands high at the withers (one hand equals four inches or 10.16 cm), and weigh between 900-1100 lbs. The polo pony is selected carefully for quick bursts of speed, stamina, agility and maneuverability. Temperament is critical; the horse must remain responsive under pressure and not become excited or difficult to control. Many are Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses. They are trained to be handled with one hand on the reins, and to be responsive to the rider's leg and weight cues for moving forward, turning and stopping. A well trained horse will carry his rider smoothly and swiftly to the ball and can account for 60 to 75 percent of the player's skill and net worth to his team.

Polo training generally begins at age three and lasts from about six months to two years. Most horses reach full physical maturity at about age five, and ponies are at their peak of athleticism and training at around age 6 or 7. However, without any accidents, polo ponies may have the ability to play until they are 18 to 20 years of age.

More than one pony per player is needed in order to allow tired mounts to be changed for fresh mounts between or even during chukkas. There are typically between 4 to 8 ponies per player. The group of ponies for a given player is commonly referred to as a "string of polo ponies", with a minimum of 2 or 3 ponies in Low Goal matches (with ponies being rested for at least a chukker before reuse), 4 or more ponies for Medium Goal matches (at least one per chukker), many more for the highest levels of competition.


A girls' polo team, United States.

Each team consists of four mounted players, which can be mixed teams of both men and women.

Each position assigned to a player has certain responsibilities:

  • Number One is the most offense-oriented position on the field. The Number One position generally covers the opposing team's Number Four.
  • Number Two has an important role in offense, either running through and scoring themselves, or passing to the Number One and getting in behind them. Defensively, they will cover the opposing team's Number Three, generally the other team's best player. Given the difficulty of this position, it is not uncommon for the best player on the team to play Number Two so long as another strong player is available to play Three.
  • Number Three is the tactical leader and must be a long powerful hitter to feed balls to Number Two and Number One as well as maintaining a solid defense. The best player on the team is usually the Number Three player, usually wielding the highest handicap.
  • Number Four is the primary defense player. They can move anywhere on the field, but they usually try to prevent scoring. The emphasis on defense by the Number Four allows the Number Three to attempt more offensive plays, since they know that they will be covered if they lose the ball.

Polo must be played right-handed. Left-handed play was ruled out in 1975 for safety reasons. To date, only 3 players on the world circuit are left-handed.


Iranian girl polo player
Polo player wearing kneepads, "riding off" an opponent

The basic dress of a player is a protective helmet (usually of a distinctive color, to be distinguished at the considerable distance from which onlookers are watching the game), riding boots to just below the knees, white trousers (often ordinary denim jeans), and a colored shirt bearing the number of the player's position. Optional equipment includes one or two gloves, wristbands, kneepads (mandatory in some clubs), spurs, face mask, and a whip.

The outdoor polo ball is made of a high-impact plastic, but was formerly made of either bamboo or willow root. The indoor polo ball is leather-covered and inflated, and is about 4½ inches (11.4 cm) in diameter. The outdoor ball is about 3¼ inches (8.3 cm) in diameter and weighs about four ounces (113.4 g). The polo mallet has a rubber-wrapped grip and a webbed thong, called thumb sling, for wrapping around the hand. The shaft is made of manau-cane (not bamboo because it is hollowed)with a hardwood head from tipa wood approximately 9½ inches in length. The mallet head weighs from 160 grams to 240 grams, depending on player preference and the type of wood used, and the shaft can vary in weight and flexibility depending on the player’s preference. The weight of the mallet head (also called "cigar") is of important consideration for the more seasoned players. Female players often use lighter mallets and cigars than male players. For some polo players, the length of the polo mallet depends on the size of the horse: the taller the horse, the longer the mallet. However, some players prefer to use a single length of mallet regardless of the height of the horse. Either way, playing horses of differing heights requires some adjustment by the rider. Variable sizes of the mallet typically range from 48 inches to 54 inches. The ball is struck with the longer sides of the mallet head rather than its round and flat tips.

Polo saddles are English-style, similar to jumping saddles although most polo saddles lack a flap under the billets, having instead a saddle blanket. Some players omit the saddle blanket. A breastplate is added, usually attached to the front billet. A tie-down (standing Martingale) may be used: if so, for safety a breastplate is a necessity. Usually the tie-down is supported by a neck strap. An overgirth may be used. The stirrup irons are heavier than most, and the stirrup leathers are wider and thicker, for added safety when the player stands in the stirrups. The legs of the pony are wrapped with polo wraps from below the knee to the fetlock to prevent injury. Often, these wraps match the team colors. The pony's mane is roached (hogged), and its tail is braided so that it will not snag the rider's mallet.

The bit frequently is a gag bit or Pelham bit. If a gag bit, there will be a drop noseband in addition to the cavesson supporting the tie-down. There frequently will be two sets of reins, and one set of reins frequently will be a draw rein.

The field

The playing field is 300 yards long by 160 yards wide, the approximate area of nine American football fields. The playing field is carefully maintained with closely mowed turf providing a safe, fast playing surface. Goals are posts which are set eight yards apart, centered at each end of the field. The surface of a polo field requires careful and constant grounds maintenance to keep the surface in good playing condition. During half-time of a match, spectators are invited to go onto the field to participate in a polo tradition called "divot stamping", which has developed to not only help replace the mounds of earth (divots) that are torn up by the horses' hooves, but to afford spectators the opportunity to walk about and socialize.

Outdoor polo

The game consists of six 7 minute chukkas, between or during which players change mounts. At the end of each 7 minute chukka, play continues for an additional 30 seconds or until a stoppage in play, whichever comes first. There is a four minute interval between chukkas and a ten minute halftime. Play is continuous and is only stopped for penalties, broken tack (equipment) or injury to horse or player. The object is to score goals by hitting the ball between the goal posts, no matter how high in the air. If the ball goes wide of the goal, the defending team is allowed a free 'knock-in' from the place where the ball crossed the goal line, thus getting the ball back into play.

Arena polo

There are minor variations between the US and British rules of arena polo. The game consists of four periods also called chukkas (six and a half minute chukkas are currently played under British arena rules), between which players change mounts. An individual horse may not play two successive chukkas. Play is continuous and is only stopped for penalties, broken equipment that may be dangerous, or injury to horse or player. The object is to score goals by hitting the ball against the back wall of the recessed goalmouths at each end of the arena. Ends change at the end of each chukka not after goals are scored as in field polo. High wooden boundary walls, which are usually 5–6 feet high, and netting above the walls aim to prevent the ball from going out of bounds. If the ball goes out it is considered a dead ball and the game is restarted (under current British arena rules free hits are awarded against the team that hit the ball out). Although the smaller playing area in arena polo prevents the horses from galloping at the speeds reached in field polo, the game is arguably quicker with non-stop end-to-end action.

Contemporary sport

Polo played as a part of the Olympic games (1900)

Polo is now an active sport in 77 countries, and although its tenure as an Olympic sport was limited to 1900–1939, in 1998 the International Olympic Committee recognised it as a sport with a bona fide international governing body, the Federation of International Polo. The World Polo Championship of Polo is held every three years by the Federation of International Polo.

Polo is, however, played professionally in only a few countries, notably Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Iran, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[18] Polo is unique among team sports in that amateur players, often the team patrons, routinely hire and play alongside the sport's top professionals.

The United States Polo Association (USPA) is the governing body for polo in the U.S. However, the U.S. is unique in that it possesses a professional women's polo league and a professional men's polo league: the United States Women's Polo Federation and the United States Men's Polo Federation, founded in 2000. The 32-team league plays across the country. The U.S. Open Championship is held at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, in Wellington, Florida.

The modern sport has had difficulty grappling with the traditional social and economic exclusivity associated with a game that is inevitably expensive when played at a serious level. Many polo athletes genuinely desire to broaden public participation in the sport, both as an end in itself and to increase the standard of play. The popularity of polo has grown steadily since the 1980s, and its future appears to have been greatly strengthened by its return as a varsity sport at universities across the world.

Arena (or indoor) polo is an affordable option for many who wish to play the sport, and the rules are similar. The sport is played in a 300 feet by 150 feet enclosed arena, much like those used for other equestrian sports; the minimum size is 150 feet by 75 feet. There are many arena clubs in the United States, and most major polo clubs, including the Santa Barbara Polo & Raquet Club, have active arena programs. The major differences between the outdoor and indoor games are: speed (outdoor being faster), physicality/roughness (indoor/arena is more physical), ball size (indoor is larger), goal size (because the arena is smaller the goal is smaller), and some penalties. In the United States and Canada, collegiate polo is arena polo; in the UK, collegiate polo is both.

South East Asia

Indonesia plays against Thailand in SEA Games Polo 2007

After an 18 year absence, polo gained Olympic recognition when it was played at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games. Nations that competed in the tournament were Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines. The tournament's gold medal was won by the Malaysian team, followed by Singapore with silver and Thailand with bronze.

The recent surge of excitement in south-east Asia around the game has resulted in its popularity in cities such as Pattaya, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. In Pattaya alone, there are 3 active polo clubs (Polo Escape, Siam Polo Park and Thai Polo and Equestrian Club. Indonesia, a country without royal ruling, has a polo club (Nusantara Polo Club). A South East Asian Polo Federation was formed with initial meeting in March 2008 that involves Royal Malaysian Polo Association, Thailand Polo Association, Indonesian Polo Association, Singapore Polo Association, Royal Brunai Polo Association and The Philippines Polo Association.[citation needed] More recently, Janek Gazecki and Ruki Baillieu have organised polo matches in parks "around metropolitan Australia, backed by wealthy sponsors."[19]

A new Chinese Equestrian Association has been formed and two new clubs have been formed in China itself: the Beijing Sunny Time Polo Club, founded by Xia Yang in 2004 [20] and the Nine Dragons Hill Polo Club in Shanghai, founded in 2005.[21]

Notable polo players

Italics indicate those who are notable also outside of polo.

Related sports

  • Buzkashi involves two teams of horse riders, a dead goat and few rules. It is played in Central Asia, and has a variant known as kokpar which is quite similar.
  • Cowboy polo uses rules similar to regular polo, but riders compete with western saddles, usually in a smaller arena, using an inflatable rubber medicine ball.
  • Horseball is a game played on horseback where a ball is handled and points are scored by shooting it through a high net. The sport is a combination of polo, rugby, and basketball.
  • Pato was played in Argentina for centuries, but is much different than modern polo. No mallets are used, and it is not played on grass.
  • Polocrosse is another game played on horseback, a cross between polo and lacrosse.


  1. ^ R. G. Goel, Veena Goel, Encyclopaedia of sports and games, Published by Vikas Pub. House, 1988, Excerpt from page 318: Persian Polo. Its birth place was Asia and authorities credit Persia with having devised it about 2000 BC..
  2. ^ Steve Craig, Sports and games of the ancients, Published by Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, ISBN 0313316007, p. 157.
  3. ^ "polo. (2007). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved April 26, 2007, from Encyclopaedia Britannica Online". 
  4. ^ a b "Polo History". 
  5. ^ Naqsh-i Jahan Square in Isfahan is in fact a polo field which was built by king Abbas I in 17th century.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Malcolm D. Whitman, Tennis: Origins and Mysteries, Published by Courier Dover Publications, 2004, ISBN 0486433579, p. 98.
  8. ^ a b Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries by Robert Crego. page 25. Published 2003. Greenwood Press. Sports & Recreation. 296 pages ISBN 0313316104
  9. ^ "Polo History". 
  10. ^ The Guinness Book of Records. 1991 edition (page 288)
  11. ^ a b c Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries by Robert Crego. Page 26. Published 2003. Greenwood Press. Sports & Recreation. 296 pages. ISBN 0313316104
  12. ^ "History of Calcutta Polo Club". Calcutta Polo Club. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  13. ^ Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries by Robert Crego. Page 26 - 27. Published 2003. Greenwood Press. Sports & Recreation. 296 pages ISBN 0313316104
  14. ^ FIP World Cup VIII - 2007
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ 8o Campeonato Mundial de Polo: México 2008
  19. ^ David, Ceri (2008-11-23). "Going Polo". Sunday Herald Sun: pp. Sunday magazine supplement (pp. 20–21). 
  20. ^ The Daily Telegraph
  21. ^
  • Polo by Penina Meisels and Michael Cronan. Collins Publishers, San Francisco, 1992. ISBN 0-00-637796-3

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

POLO (Tibetan pule, ball), the most ancient of games with stick and ball. Hockey, the Irish national game of hurling (and possibly golf and cricket) are derived from polo. The latter was called hockey or hurling on horseback in England and Ireland respectively, but historically hockey arid hurling are polo on foot.

The earliest records of polo are Persian. From Persia the game spread westward to Constantinople, eastwards through Turkestan to Tibet, China and Japan. From Tibet polo travelled to Gilgit and Chitral, possibly also to Manipur. Polo also flourished in India in the 16th century. Then for 200 years its records in India cease, till in 1854 polo came into Bengal from Manipur by way of Cachar and in 1862 the game was played in the Punjab.

There have been twelve varieties of the game during its existence of at least 2000 years. (1) A primitive form consisting of feats of horsemanship and of skill with stick and ball. (2) Early Persian, described in Shahnama, a highly organized game with rules, played four aside. (3) Later Persian, 16th century, the grounds 300 by 170 yds. Sir Anthony Shirley says the game resembled the rough football of the same period in England. (4) The game in the 17th century in Persia. A more highly organized game than No. 3, as described by Chardin. (5) The Byzantine form played at Constantinople in the 12th century. A leathern ball the size of an apple and a racquet were used. (6) The Chinese game, about A.D. 600 played with a light wooden ball. The goal was formed by two posts with a boarding between, in the latter a hole being cut and a net attached to it in the form of a bag. The side which hit the ball into the bag were the winners. Another Chinese form was two teams ranged on opposite sides of the ground, each defending its own goal. The object of the game was to drive the ball through the enemy's goal. (7) The Japanese game, popular in feudal times, still survives under the name of Dakiu, or ball match. The Japanese game has a boarded goal; 5 ft. from the ground is a circular hole 1 ft. 2 in. in diameter with a bag behind. The balls are of paper with a cover of pebbles or bamboo fibre, diameter 1.7 in., weight i 2 oz. The sticks are racket shaped. The object is to lift over or carry the ball with the racket and place it in the bag. (8) Called rol, played with a long stick with which the ball was dribbled along the ground. (9) Another ancient Indian form in which the sides ranged up on opposite sides of the ground and the ball was thrown in. This is probably the form of the game which reached India from Persia and is represented at the present day by Manipur and Gilgit polo, though these forms are probably rougher than the. old Indian game. (10) Modern English with heavy ball and sticks, played in England and the colonies and wherever polo is played in Europe. Its characteristics are: offside; severe penalties for breach of the rules; close combination; rather short passing; low scoring, and a strong defence. (11) Indian polo has a lighter ball, no boards to the grounds, which are usually full-sized; a modified offside-rule, but the same system of penalties. It is a quicker game than the English. (12) The American game has no offside and no penalties, in the English sense. The attack is stronger, the passing longer, the pace greater and more sustained. American players are more certain goal-hitters and their scoring is higher. They defeated the English players in 1909 with ease.

Polo was first played in England by the 10th Hussars in 1869. The game spread rapidly and some good play was seen at Lillie Bridge. But the organization of polo in England dates from its adoption by the Hurlingham Club in 1873. The ground was boarded along the sides, and this device, which was employed as a remedy for the irregular shape of the Hurlingham ground, has become almost universal and has greatly affected the development of the game. The club committee, in 1874, drew up the first code of rules, which reduced the number of players to five a side and included offside. The next step was the foundation of the Champion Cup, in 1877. Then came the rule dividing the game into periods of ten minutes, with intervals of two minutes for changing ponies after each period, and five minutes at halftime. The height of ponies was fixed at 14.2, and a little later an official measurer was appointed, no pony being allowed to play unless registered at Hurlingham. The next change was the present scale of penalties for offside, foul riding or dangerous play. A short time after, the crooking of the adversary's stick, unless in the act of hitting the ball, was forbidden. The game grew faster, partly as the result of these rules. Then the ten minutes' rule was revised. The period did not close until the ball went over the boundary. Thus the period might be extended to twelve or thirteen minutes, and although this time was deducted from the next period the strain of the extra minutes was too great on men and ponies. It was therefore laid down that the ball should go out of play on going out of bounds or striking the board, whichever happened first. In 1910 a polo handicap was established, based on the American system of estimating the number of goals a player was worth to his side. This was modified in the English handicap by assigning to each player a handicap number as at golf. The highest number is ten, the lowest one. The Hurlingham handicap is revised during the winter, again in May, June and July, each handicap coming into force one month after the date of issue. In tournaments under handicap the individual handicap numbers are added together, and the team with the higher aggregate concedes goals to that with the lower, according to the conditions of the tournament. The handicap serves to divide second from first class tournaments, for the former teams must not have an aggregate over 25. The size of the polo ground is 300 yds. in length and from 160 to 200 yds. in width. The larger size is only found now where boards are not used. The ball is made of willow root, is 34 in. in diameter, weight not over 52 oz. The polo stick has no standard size or weight, and square or cigar-shaped heads are used at the discretion of the player. On soft grounds, the former, on hard grounds the latter are the better, but Indian and American players nearly always prefer the cigar shape.

The goal posts, now generally made of papier mache, are 8 yds. apart. This is the goal line. Thirty yards from the goal line a line is marked out, nearer than which to the goal no one of a fouled side may be when the side fouling has to hit out, as a penalty from behind the back line, which is the goal line produced. At 50 yds. from each goal there is generally a mark to guide the man who takes a free hit as a penalty.

Penalties are awarded by the umpires, who should be two in number, well mounted, and with a good knowledge of the rules of the game. The Hurlingham and Ranelagh clubs appoint official umpires. There should also be a referee in case of disagreement between the umpires, and it is usual to have a man with a flag behind each goal to signal when a goal is scored. The Hurlingham club makes and revises the rules of the game, and its code is, with some local modifications, in force in the United Kingdom, English-speaking colonies, the Argentine Republic, California, and throughout Europe. America and India are governed by their own polo associations.

The American rules have no offside, and their penalties consist of subtracting a goal or the fraction of a goal, according to the offence, from the side which has incurred a penalty for fouling. The differences between the. Hurlingham and Indian rules are very slight, and they tend to assimilate more as time goes on.

Polo in the army is governed by an army polo committee, which fixes the date of the inter-regimental tournament. The semi-finals and finals are played at Hurlingham. The earlier ties take place at centres arranged by the army polo committee, who are charged by the military authorities with the duty of checking the expenditure of officers on the game. The value of polo as a military exercise is now fully recognized, and with the co-operation of Hurlingham,. Ranelagh and Roehampton the expenses of inter-regimental tournaments have been regulated and restrained.

The County Polo Association has affiliated to it all the county clubs. It is a powerful body, arranging the conditions of county tournaments, constructing the handicaps for county players, and in conjunction with the Ranelagh club holding a polo week for county players in London. The London clubs are threeHurlingham, Ranelagh and Roehampton. Except that they use Hurlingham rules the clubs are independent, and arrange the conditions and fix the dates of their own tournaments. Ranelagh has four, Roehampton three and Hurlingham two polo grounds. There are about 400 matches played at these clubs, besides members' games from May to July during the London season. At present tl, Meadowbrook still hold the cup which was won by an English team in 1886. In 1902 an American team made an attempt to recover it and failed.

They lacked ponies and combination; but they bought the first and learned the second, and tried again successfully in 1909, thus depriving English polo of the championship of the world.

Polo in England has passed through several stages. It was always a game of skill. The cavalry regiments in India in early polo days, the 5th, 9th, 12th and 17th Lancers, the 10th Hussars and the 13th Hussars, had all learned the value of combination. In very early days regimental players had learned the value of the backhanded stroke, placing the ball so as to give opportunities to their own side. The duty of supporting the other members of the team and riding off opponents so as to clear the way for players on the same side was understood. This combination was made easier when the teams were reduced from five a side to four. Great stress was laid on each man keeping his place, but a more flexible style of play existed from early days in the 17th Lancers and was improved and perfected at the Rugby Club by the late Colonel Gordon Renton and Captain E. D. Miller, who had belonged to that regiment. For a long time the Rugby style of play, with its close combination, short passes and steady defence, was the model on which other teams formed themselves. The secret of the success of Rugby was the close and unselfish combination and the hard work done by every member of the team. After the American victories of 1 9 09 a bolder, harder hitting style was adopted, and the work of the forwards became more important, and longer passes are now the rule. But the main principles are the same. The forwards lead the attack and are supported by the half-back and back when playing towards the adversaries' goal. In defence the forwards hamper the opposing No. 3 and No. 4 and endeavour to clear the way for their own No. 3 and No. 4, who are trying not merely to keep the ball out of their own goal but to turn defence into attack. Each individual player must be a good horseman, able to make a pony gallop, must have a control of the ball, hitting hard and clean and in the direction he wishes it to go. He must keep his eye on the ball and yet know where the goal-posts are, must be careful not to incur penalties and quick to take advantage of an opportunity. Polo gives no time for second thoughts. A polo player must not be in a hurry, but he must never be slow nor dwell on his stroke. He must be able to hit when galloping his best pace on to the ball and able to use the speed of his pony in order to get pace. He must be able to hit a backhander or to meet a ball coming to him, as the tactics of the game require. Polo has given rise to a new type of horse, an animal of 14 hands 2 in. with the power of a hunter, the courage of a racehorse and the docility of a pony. At first the ponies were small, but now each pony must pass the Hurlingham official measurer and be entered on the register. The English system of measurement is the fairest and most pony humane possible. The pony stripped of his clothing is led by an attendant, not his own groom, into a box with a perfectly level floor and shut off from every distraction. A veterinary surgeon examines to see that the pony is neither drugged nor in any way improperly prepared. The pony is allowed to stand easily, and a measuring standard with a spirit-level is then placed on the highest point of the wither, and if the pony measures 14.2 and is five years old it is registered for life. Ponies are of many breeds. There are Arabs, ' Argentines, Americans, Irish and English ponies, the last two being the best. The Polo and Riding Pony Society, with headquarters at 12 Hanover Square, looks after the interests of the English and Irish pony and encourages their breeders. The English ponies are now bred largely for the game and are a blend of thoroughbred blood (the best are always the race-winning strains) or Arab and of the English native pony.


- Polo in England: J. Moray Brown, Riding and Polo, Badminton Library, revised and brought up to date by T. F. Dale (Longmans, 1899); Captain Younghusband, Polo in India, (n.d.); J. Moray Brown, Polo (Vinton, 1896) T. F. Dale, The Game of Polo (A. Constable & Co., 1897); Captain Younghusband, Tournament Polo (1897); Captain de Lisle, Durham Light Infantry, Hints to Polo Players in India (1897) T. B. Drybrough, Polo (Vinton, 1898; revised, Longmans, 1906); Captain E. D. Miller, Modern Polo (1903); H. L. Fitzpatrick, Equestrian Polo, in Spalding's Athletic Library (1904); Major G. J. Younghusband, Tournament Polo (1904); T. F. Dale "Polo, Past and Present," Country Life; Walter Buckmaster, "Hints on Polo Combination," Library of Sport (George Newnes Ltd., 1905; Vinton & Co., 1909); Hurlingham Club, Rules of Polo, Register of Ponies; Polo and Riding Pony Society Stud Book (12 vols., 12 Hanover Square). Annuals: American Polo Association, 143 Liberty Street, New York; Indian Polo Association, Lucknow, N. P.; Captain E. D. Miller, D.S.O., The Polo Players' Guide and Almanack; The Polo Annual, ed. by L. V. L. Simmonds. Monthlies: Bailey's Magazine (Vinton & Co.); The Polo Monthly (Craven House, Kingsway, London).

Polo in Persia: Firdousi's Shahnama, translated as Le Livre des rois by J. Mohl, with notes and comm.; Sir Anthony Shirley, Travels in Persia (1569); Sir John Chardin, Voyages en Perse (1686), ed. aug. de notes, &c. par L. Langles, 1811; Sir William Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East, particularly Persia (1810).

There are many allusions to polo in the poets, notably Nizami, Jami and Omar Khayyam.

Polo in Constantinople: Cinnamus Joannes epitome rerum ab toanne et Alexio Commenis gest. (Bonn, 1836).

Polo in India: Ain-i-Akbari (1555); G. F. Vigne, Travels in Kashmir (Ladakh and Iskarcp, 1842); Colonel Algernon Durand, The Making of a Frontier (1899).

Polo in Gilgit and Chitral: " Polo in Baltistan." The Field (1888); Polo in Manipur, Captain McCulloch, Manipuris and the Adjacent Tribes (1859). (T. F. D.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Polo n.

  1. polo (ball game)

Simple English

Polo is a sport. It is played between two teams of 4 players on ponies (small horses) who attempt to score goals (points) by putting the ball in the goal using long mallets (long sticks). It is the state sport of Kashmir.


The main rules of polo

There are two teams both with 4 players. They play on a field which is 300 yards long (about 275 meters) and 160 or 200 yards wide (about 146 and 183 meters). There are goalposts (long sticks in the ground) 8 yards (7.32 meters) apart at each end of the field. To score, the ball has to go between the other team's goalposts, which is called a goal.

The game is 4, 6 or 8 periods (units of time) of 7 minutes, which are called chukkas. Between chukkas, players change ponies.

In a game there are 2 umpires on horses and a referee on the side.

Player positions

Each player has certain responsibilities:

  • Number One is the most offensive position on the field.
  • Number Two is the most difficult position on the field to play. The number 2 has an important offensive role and a defensive role.
  • Number Three is the tactical leader. He is defensive and offensive and is often the best player.
  • Number Four is the most defensive player. He tries to stop the other team from scoring goals.

Polo ponies

The ponies are 14.2 to 16 hands (1 hand equals 4 inches or 10.16 centimetres). They weigh between 900 and 1100lbs-pounds- (about 408 and 499 kilos). Ponies can be ridden to play from the age of 5 up to 18 or even 20 years old sometimes.


File:Polo 070922
Polo player wearing all the equipment

The players have a helmet (hard hat), riding boots, white trousers, a shirt with the player's number on. Sometimes players also have one or two gloves, knee-pads and a whip.

The ball is made of plastic. Before, it was made of wood. The ball is about 3¼ inches (8.3 centimetres) in diameter and weighs about four ounces (113.4 grams).

Polo saddles are English-style, similar to jumping saddles.

Other forms of polo

Polo is not always played on ponies, canoe polo, cycle polo, camel polo, elephant polo, golf cart polo, Segway polo, BMX polo, yak polo and water polo also exist; however most of these forms are not played at a professional level.

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