The origin of polo remains uncertain. The sport probably originated in the Middle East, where it was played on a barren field by nomadic warriors as early as 2500 years ago in Persia and perhaps as far east as China. The Afghan sport ‘Buzkachi’ is considered a primitive form of polo which is still practised today. In the 16th century AD a polo ground was built at Ispahan, then capital of Persia, by Shah Abbas the Great. It stretched a total of 300 yards, with goal posts placed 8 yards apart. The British cavalry discovered polo in India during the 19th century. Polo was considered the national sport in the state of Manipur (Munipoor) and British officials eagerly learned the game from the area’s inhabitants. Indian players had developed the sport by imitating a Tibetan game, in which the ball was called ‘pulu’. Known in the Orient as the Game of Kings, Tamer lane’s polo grounds can still be found in Samarkand. In Lahore, Captain Sherer’s eagerness to play the sport was met by a warning from the Maharajà. ‘Attention Sir! We needed 2000 years to learn it!’
The first polo club in the world, namely the Calcutta Polo Club, was founded in 1862 by British tea planters at Silchar, west of Manipur. By 1870 the game was played all over British India with local small ponies. British tea planters in India had come in contact with the game in the early 1800s but it was only in the 1850s that the British Cavalry drew up its earliest rules. By the 1860s the game was well established in England. Soon afterwards, Hurlingham became the most important polo club. Today, Hurlingham is home to the League of the British Polo and it defines the game’s official rules. Polo spread throughout Europe, the America and Africa. The sport found a particularly warm reception in Argentina, thanks to the infinite Pampas, the extraordinary abilities of the gauchos and the limitless availability of horses. Polo has been an Olympic discipline since the Paris games of 1900. In Italy this sport arrived later. Italian polo was started in Rome in 1930 with the foundation of the first Italian polo club. The first national Italian polo team was founded in 1940.