Origin Stories Behind The Famous Sports From Around The World

Sports are fun to play, and it’s good exercise too. Believe it or not, many of the games you play have some very intriguing origin stories. Some of them go back thousands of years. On the other hand, some games were recently invented, but they became a hot commodity for people looking for something a little less traditional.

After reading their origin stories, you might want to give these sports a chance!

Skiing Is One Of The Oldest Sports In History

Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images
Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Ski-like objects were discovered in Northern Russia dating back from 6,000 BCE. It wasn’t until the 1700s that skiing took a giant leap forward when the Norwegian military used them. They would hold downhill races, navigating around trees and other obstacles, all while shooting at the same time.

The first national race took place in Oslo in 1860 with Alpine (downhill) skiing making its first Olympic appearance in the 1936 games.

Bowling Goes All The Way Back To Ancient Egypt

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

A set of stones were used as pins, and a ball was found in a child’s tomb. However, the modern-day version started in Germany as a religious ceremony. From the 3rd to the 4th century BCE, church parishioners would put a kegel, or club, at the end of a rolling lane.

They would roll a ball at it as a symbolic act of cleansing themselves of sin. There are lots of variations of “pin” games around the world.

Frisbee Golf Has A Blurry History

Ingo Wagner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Ingo Wagner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Using the popular flying discs with golfing rules made the game a little more interesting. Disc golf first came about in the early 1900s, and by 1965, George Sappenfield came up with the idea to contact Wham-O to make the idea official.

It wasn’t until the late ’70s that Wham-O realized the business value of promoting the game. In 1975, disc golf was included in the World Frisbee Championships.

Polo Started In Persia Around The 6th Century BCE

Zhijian Liu/Getty Images
Zhijian Liu/Getty Images

Polo, played with two teams of four players, is the oldest equestrian sport in the world. It didn’t start as a game, but rather a training exercise for military units on horseback. For soldiers, it was something like a miniature battle.

The training would eventually become a favorite game that made its way to India. From there, British officers adopted the game and it quickly grew in popularity. It reached the United States in the 1870s.

Billiards Was First A Lawn Game In Northern Europe

Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images
Steve Christo/Corbis via Getty Images

Call it whatever you want, billiards or pool was first developed in the 1500s. Initially, it was played outdoors as a lawn game that was somewhat similar to croquet. Eventually, the game was moved indoors and played on a wooden table. The green cloth is meant to simulate grass.

The cue stick was developed in the late 1600s. And after the industrial revolution, billiards became more popular as the quality of equipment improved rapidly.

Golf Was Not Created In Scotland, But The Modern Game Of Golf Was

Luke Walker/Getty Images
Luke Walker/Getty Images

Historians go back to the many different stick-and-ball games invented in the Middle Ages for the origin of golf. The Scottish adopted one of the variations and created one with their own rules, which is what we know as golf today. The first mention of golf on record was by King James II in 1457.

Two things the Scottish did to contribute to the game were digging a hole into the ground and getting the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible.

Badminton Was Originally Called Battledore

STR/AFP/Getty Images
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Badminton, the lawn game played with lightweight rackets and a shuttlecock, has roots in ancient Western civilizations. The game became a commodity in the 1600s. It was a very simple game consisting of knocking the shuttlecock back and forth without letting it hit the ground.

The game would evolve in a British-occupied India. With a new net and set of rules added, the game eventually changed to badminton as we know it today.

Basketball Was Invented Because Of Wintertime Cold

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers with the ball against the Utah Jazz
Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

Although today it’s one of the most popular activities around the world, basketball was invented relatively recently. In 1891, a Canadian P.E. teacher in Massachusetts came up with the sport as an activity that students could participate in during the cold of winter. The first goals were peach baskets and the game had 13 rules.

The sport quickly grew in popularity and The American National Basketball Association (NBA) was established in 1946. It’s now a multibillion-dollar enterprise and professional players can make millions each year.

Dodgeball Started In Africa Over 200 Years Ago

Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first evidence of an activity similar to dodgeball dates back 200 years in Africa, although it wasn’t played as a game. As part of their training, warriors would throw large rocks at each other. The object of the game was to knock out their opponent and hit them further by pelting them with the rocks. Teammates had to defend the fallen player by throwing their rock at the opponent.

Missionary Dr. James H. Carisle witnessed the game and took it with him to Britain where it became less violent.

Boxing First Started With Sumerian Carvings Of People Boxing

Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Vipin Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The sport of boxing goes all the way back to 3,000 BCE and it was introduced to the ancient Olympic Games during the 7th century BC. It’s believed that people in Minoan Crete used gloves and helmets during matches rather than traditional fist boxing.

The Greeks considered the sport to be their most dangerous one. The sport came to an abrupt end with the fall of the Roman Empire, but resurfaced in 17th century England and grew in popularity from there.

Cricket Started With People Bowling At A Tree Stump

Stu Forster/Getty Images
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Cricket is thought to have started as a children’s game that eventually became popular with adults. Going back as far as the 13th century, cricket was played with a tree stump instead of a bat and a stone or lump of wood as the ball.

The game didn’t evolve until the late 19th century when new rules and techniques were introduced. Today, cricket is the world’s second most popular spectator sport, just after soccer.

Joel Silver Brought Up The Idea Of Ultimate Frisbee

Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images
Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images

Joel Silver brought the idea to the student council at Columbia High School. Within a year, the first game was played between two groups of students using a Wham-O Master disc.

More rules were added to the game in 1970, and the first intercollegiate game was played two years later between Rutgers and Princeton. Five years later, the first organized tournament (the National Collegiate Championships) was played. The name was later changed to the National Ultimate Frisbee Championship.

The Origin Of Tennis Is Heavily Disputed

Julian Finney/Getty Images
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The official game and rules were attributed to Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in 1783, but many claim that the sport of tennis was played before him. In fact, its origins can be traced to a 12th and 13th-century French handball game.

The sport as we know if today was initially called “lawn tennis.” It came to the United States and gained popularity with the first official U.S. Tennis Association starting in 1881.

It’s No Surprise That Javelin Evolved From Hunting

javelin
ROVERETO, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 08: Christin Hussong of Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images
ROVERETO, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 08: Christin Hussong of Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the sport of throwing the javelin traces its roots back to when humans used spears for hunting and warfare. Javelin was a popular activity in Ancient Greece and was introduced into the Olympic Games in 708BC.

The throwing of javelin-like poles was widely practiced in Sweden and Germany in the early 1870s. In modern Olympics, it’s been an official sport since 1908 for men and 1932 for women.

Surfing Has Something In Common With Skiing

Casinhas/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Casinhas/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Much like skiing, surfing is one of the oldest sports in the world. The act of riding waves on boards has most likely been going on since humans first swam in the oceans. However, standing up on surfboards is a concept developed by the Polynesians and influenced by the surfers of pre-contact Hawaii.

Surfing is very important to the cultures that value it, and building a surfboard is a spiritual process.

Many Believed Hockey Was Influenced By The Irish Game Of Hurling

Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

In the early 1800s, Micmac Indians in Nova Scotia played a game using a stick and a wooden block. The popularity of the game spread throughout Canada and the French name “hoquet,” meaning Shepherd’s stick, became hockey.

In the earliest versions of the game, there were no rules about many players could be on the ice. The very first indoor hockey game was played in 1875, and professional ice hockey started around 1900.

Lacrosse Was Originally A Native American Game Known As Stickball

Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images
Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Lacrosse, one of the oldest team sports in North America, was initially played by the Algonquian tribe near the Great Lakes. It was nothing more than a religious and athletic event for the tribe. At the time, the rules were pretty simple: don’t touch the ball with your hands. Games could go on for days!

Eventually, French missionaries witnessed the game and called it lacrosse. It was included in the 1904 and 1908 Summer Olympics, but was then dropped as an official sport.

Soccer Can Be Traced Back To Many Different Cultures

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Clive Rose/Getty Images

The modern version comes from when it broke off from English rugby in 1863. But soccer is much, much older than that!

In fact, evidence shows the exercise of kicking a ball around goes back to a Chinese military practice more than 2,000 years ago. It was called “Tsu’ Chu,” and used a ball that was filled with feathers. Variations of the sport also appeared in Rome, Greece, regions of Central America

Handball Was First Mentioned Back In 600 BCE

Ewald Rauscher/SEPA.Media /Getty Images
Ewald Rauscher/SEPA.Media /Getty Images

In its earliest form, the game was used in Germany and Scandanavia toward the end of the 19th century. It was a way to train soccer players during the offseason. The sport was introduced in Sweden by G. Wallström in 1910.

Handball made its first appearance at the 1936 Berlin Games. But, it wasn’t until 1972 when it became an official sport for the Olympics. Women’s handball was introduced to the Olympics during the 1976 Montreal Games.

Rugby Was Known As Folk Or Mob Football

Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images
Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Variations of the game started in the middle ages, and it would be played among the neighboring villages. With an unlimited amount of players, they would fight over a pig’s bladder.

Rugby and its rules as we know them today were said to have developed at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, in 1823. In 1871 the first international game was played, between England and Scotland. It was added to the 1900 Summer Olympics and the first Rugby World Cup was held in 1987.