Possibly the oldest team sport, polo’s genesis is lost to the eye of history. An Asiatic game, polo was probably first played on a barren campground by nomadic warriors over two thousand years ago.
Valuable for training Calvary, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. Known in the East as the Game of Kings, Tamer Lane’s polo grounds can still be seen in Samarkand.
British tea planters in India witnessed the game in the early 1800’s but it was not until the 1850’s that the British Calvary drew up the earliest rules and by the 1869’s the game was well established in England.
James Gordon Bennett, a noted American publisher; balloonist, and adventurer, was captivated by the sport and brought it to New York in 1876 where it caught on immediately. Within ten years, there were major clubs all over the east, including Newport and Long Island.
Over the next 50 years, polo achieved extraordinary popularity. By the 1930’s polo was in the midst of a Golden Age – it was an Olympic sport and crowds in excess of 30,000 regularly attended international matches at Meadow Brook Polo Club on Long Island. The galloping game produced athletes who would doubtless have achieved greatness in any sport: Cecil Smith, the Texas cowboy, who held a perfect 10 goal rating for a still-record 25 years; Devereux Melbourne, instrumental in formulating modern styles of play; and Tommy Hitchcock, war hero, and the best of the best in international competition for two decades.
Polo is definitely an international sport. The game is played during the summer season in countries all over the world, the fall season at Palermo in Buenos Aires and the winter season at Palm Beach or Palm Desert. For over 30 years the Argentines have been preeminent in the sport, but explosive growth in players and the availability of good horses is honing the competitive abilities of challengers from many countries.