world’s oldest sports

Sports have been a part of human culture since its inception. Today, many sportsmen around the world have made it their full-time profession. Even though it was originally invented as a way of enjoyment and entertainment. Ever wondered about the older form of competitive sports? This article will help you get an answer. We have put together a list of 10 of the world’s oldest sports.

10. Football

  • Early Evidence: 100/800 years ago
  • Origin: England/China

While the modern history of football began only 100 years ago, the sport itself dates further back. Historians dictate that since ancient times kicking football was a form of entertainment among multiple cultures. The furthest trackable history of football is from China. Even that was approximately 800 years ago. Back then people called it Tsu’ Chu. The game involved kicking a ball within a 30cm opening.

9. Chess

  • Early Evidence: 1000 years ago
  • Origin: India/Persia/China

Some historians debate that Chess dates to the 6th century. But found evidence suggests that multiple countries had games resembling chess around 1000 years ago. Countries like India, Persia, and China each had their iteration of chess back then. Later these different versions reached Europe in 1350. While some formations and rules are like modern chess, most old chess formats were unique based on their geography.

8. Gymnastics

  • Earliest Evidence: 1000 years ago
  • Origin: Ancient Greece

Gymnastics is the oldest Olympics sport. An individual’s flexibility, agility, balance, and physical strength are ascertained with this game. The earliest pieces of evidence suggest that ancient Greek people invented the game. Modern Olympics included the game in 1896. The game now contains six different events. These include floor exercise, still rings, vault, high bar, parallel bar, and pommel horse.

7. Boxing

  • Earliest Evidence: 1200 years ago
  • Origin: Sumerian civilization (Modern Iraq)

Boxing is a popular modern sport. The recent iteration dates to the 17th century as bare-knuckle boxing. But actual sport existed even before that. There is proof that ancient Greeks and Romans had a similar sort of sport. The oldest evidence suggests that the original form of bare-knuckle combat was developed by the Sumerian civilizations. They are ancestors of modern-day Iraqi residents.

6. Hurling

  • Earliest Evidence: 3000 years ago
  • Origin: Ireland

Hurling is one of the oldest sports in the world. The modern iteration of it originated in Ireland around 3000 years ago. The concept was popular there even before. But it became popular after English people adopted it. Experts say that football originated from hurling in England. While its younger iteration went to become a global phenomenon, it is still mostly unknown. Therefore, it is one of the most ancient sports in the world.

5. Horse Riding

  • Early Evidence: 6000 years ago
  • Origin: Central Asia

Humanity domesticated horses around 6000 years ago. Since then, these animals have been a major part of our culture and lifestyle. People of different demographic and cultures have made horses a part of their lifestyle since the old times.

Ancient Romans and Greeks were very fond of various horse shows. In time, it became what modern horse riding is. The Olympics added horse riding to its roster in 1900.

4. Swimming

  • Earliest Evidence: 6000 years ago
  • Origin: Libyan Desert

Swimming is a part of human instinct. This activity was a part of human lifestyle since the dawn of humanity. But the activity’s origin as a form of entertainment supposedly began among the residents of the Libyan desert. Various wall writings found in the “Cave of Swimmers” of Gilf Kebir plateau suggest this.

3. Archery

  • Earliest Evidence: c10,000 years ago
  • Origin: Africa

Bows and Arrows were originally invented for ranged hunting and self-defense. It dates to the end of the Upper Paleolithic era. Africans developed the earliest form of archery.

Later, as Archery spread over the world some utilized it as a form of sport. The earliest historical record suggests that it was a part of the ancient Olympics. The modern Olympics added archery in 1900. But it was withdrawn after 1920 and got added back in 1972.

2. Running

  • Earliest Evidence: c15,300 years ago
  • Origin: France

In modern-day, running is not only a part of life but a popular form of athletics. It was always an essential of human instinct. But people embraced it as a form of sport in the Upper Paleolithic era. The earliest evidence is found in the Lascaux caves situated in France. Ancient Olympics added it around 770 BCE. The sport was divided into two sections. One assessed an athlete’s speed and the other checked for endurance. First-ever recorded running competition debut in Ireland in 1831.

1. Wrestling

  • Earliest Evidence: c15,300 years ago
  • Origin: Greece/ France

Wrestling is the world’s oldest sport. Choosing the strongest person in a group is a natural human instinct. It helped the sport’s early rise as a popular form of entertainment very early. There is even evidence to support it. Wrestling involves various grappling and throwing techniques to takedown the competitor.

Ancient wrestling was a competitive fight back in 100 and 200AD. It later got worldwide spread with the help of the Greek Olympics. Modern wrestling can be traced back to 1800 in France.


This concludes our list of the top 10 oldest sports in the world. While more sports can be called ancient, these are the sports with proper documentation suggesting their origin. To learn more interesting news related to sports such as this, keep an eye on our website.

Abdullah Al Hasan writes about various players, especially about their Biography. He is a freelance content writer and a full-time blogger by profession. He also writes on Surprise Sports regularly.


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