In 1859, Major General Joseph Sherer, together with British Army officers and the traders and tea-planters, established the first British polo club, Silchar Kangjei Club, later renamed the Silchar Polo Club. Ten years later, a team of Meitei riders and their Manipuri Ponies were taken to Calcutta by Capt. Joseph Sherer, the “father of modern polo,” to play an exhibition game. Polo took the British by storm, and the 10th Hussars soon brought the game to England, where the first game on British soil was played in Hurlingham in 1869.
The original rules of the game in the West, as established by the Hurlingham Polo Association, introduced chukkas and goal posts, limited the players to four per side, and the height of mounts to 13 hands - the height of the Manipuri Pony. Over the years, the pony height limit was raised, especially after the game came to America. In 1919, the height limit was abolished, resulting in the Manipuri and other polo ponies being passed over in favor of larger horses. But traditional Manipuri rules allowing only right-handed players and right-of-way are still followed in polo today.Source: Manipuri-Polo-Artifacts
POLO IN ENGLAND
It may at first sight seem strange that a nation like the British, celebrated for its manly sports, should have imported one of its very best games from a country many thousands of miles distant; but the strides that polo has made of late years and the growing popularity in which it is now held are very apparent. There are infinitely more players than there were even half a dozen years ago, and not only is this a fact, but the prices of good ponies have increased enormously. Play, too, has reached a very much higher standard, and a man who aims now to be in the front rank has to be almost 'in training.' The reason for this we shall be able to trace if we follow its progress in this country and in India. Before doing so, however, let us glance back to the time when it first became known in England.
It is generally supposed that the origin of the game in England was due to a cavalry regiment lately returned from India; that they had seen the game there, and so brought the idea wnth them. This theory is, however, erroneous. It originated in a far more prosaic manner, and found its birthplace in the brain of sundry young subalterns of the 10th Hussars in 1869. This regiment was then quartered at Aldershot under canvas. After lunch one day, and wearying for some occupation wherewith to kill time and overcome the ennui of camp life, Messrs. St. Quintin, 'Chicken' Hartopp, and Chain were scanning the papers in the ante-room tent. There they read an account of the game as played by the Munnipoorees. Quoth one, 'By Jove! it must be a goodish game. I vote we try it.' No sooner said than done. Their chargers were saddled, crooked sticks and a billard ball got hold of, and they set to work — needless to say with no great results. Still, they were discriminating enough to see that though the game could hardly be played on big horses, yet when ponies were used it had great elements of excitement in it; so before long Mr. Chain was deputed to go over to Ireland and buy ponies, and soon returned with some seventeen of all sizes and shapes, and then play began in earnest. The 10th Hussars mentioned the subject to the 9th Lancers, then quartered at Hounslow, and they too entered into the spirit of the enterprise and likewise began to play, and these two regiments played the first boná-fide inter-regimental match in England on Hounslow Heath. There were eight a side, and though the ball was more often missed than hit, the game caused great merriment, and became firmly planted. So matters went on till June 1870 (by which time the Blues and the 1st Life Guards had also been bitten with the delights of polo).
How, when, and where polo was first introduced into British India as a game for Europeans is a matter of controversy. Some believe that it came from Kashmir and Afghanistan, some that it was brought from China by the Irregular Cavalry after the war of 1861, and others again that it was known in the pre-Mutiny days, and authority for this last assertion is obtainable. Certain it is, that though the game was a favourite pastime amongst the Moghul rulers of Hindustan as late as the sixteenth century, yet historians seem to be silent on the subject subsequently, and there exists a hiatus in the mention of the game between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. It is probable, therefore, that it declined in popularity and died out.
The first allusion to polo in works written within the last half-century that considerable research has enabled me to find, is contained in a very interesting volume by Vigne entitled 'Travels in Kashmir, Ladakh, and Thibet,' published in 1842.Polo (1891)
Author: J. Moray Brown
The Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes
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