polo history

1870:The game of polo continued to spread like a wildfire throughout England.

1872 saw the first polo club in England founded in Monmouthshire by Capt. Francis “Tip” Herbert of the 7th Lancers. The game was still known as “hockey on horseback” and was played mostly at a walk with a long hockey stick and several different types of balls, a cricket ball painted white being the most popular option.

Lapolo ,20 September 2021

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1870:The game of polo continued to spread like a wildfire throughout England.
Oxford vs. Cambridge Varsity Match

Oxford vs. Cambridge Varsity Match, Frank Dadd, Public Domain

Formation of Polo clubs in Britain and India

The game of polo continued to spread like a wildfire throughout England. 1872 saw the first polo club in England founded in Monmouthshire by Capt. Francis “Tip” Herbert of the 7th Lancers. The game was still known as “hockey on horseback” and was played mostly at a walk with a long hockey stick and several different types of balls, a cricket ball painted white being the most popular option. The times needed improvement in the equipment and as a result, long-handled sticks, and wooden white balls the sizes of a cricket ball were introduced. The Lillie Bridge area in West Brompton had another polo ground at the time. Here matches would take place between the Household Cavalry and the Light Cavalry. 

In 1874 the Hurlingham Club in Fulham, London drew up the first formal set of rules of the game, to protect the interests of the sport, the players, and the horses. Under the leadership of the Hon. Debonair John Monson, the club quickly became the central hub for the sport of polo. Oxford and Cambridge University also founded polo clubs in 1874 and 1873, respectively. The game nearly drew 10,000 spectators in England in 1875. The very first inter-university match (later known as the Varsity Match) took place in 1878, with Oxford securing the win.

The sport in this decade was very much dominated by army officers, with many cavalry regiments in Britain and India having their own polo clubs. Teams from princely states such as Patiala & Jodhpur started taking shape. In 1887, the diamond jubilee year of Queen Victoria’s reign, the first Indian polo team went abroad for a tournament. 

The arrival of the game in other states

After the success and popularity of the game in the UK, the game was imported to Argentina, Australia, and the United States. Played as a game in their spare time, British and Irish immigrants in the Argentine pampas introduced Argentina to the world of Polo. Among those immigrants, David Shennan is credited with having organized the first formal polo game of the country in 1875, at Estancia El Negrete, located in the province of Buenos Aires.

It was Lieutenant Colonel Thomas St. Quintin who took the game to Australia. And as for the U.S., on a trip to England, James Gordon Bennett, a wealthy New York Herald newspaper publisher, and sportsman saw his first polo game and returned to New York early on 16th May 1869, with mallets, balls, and a copy of the Hurlingham rules. Later that year, informal games were being played in New York City and by 1877 at Jerome Park racetrack in Westchester County, N.Y., where the Westchester Polo Club, the first polo club in America was founded. J. Gordon Bennett came to be known as the father of American polo as it was he who assembled the players, knowledge, and equipment. 

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