What Are the Oldest Sports in the World?


Many countries have a sports culture of some sort. These generate a lot of excitement and activity for everyone, even if their teams don’t make it to an international tournament. Americans gather to watch the Super Bowl very religiously, while several countries go crazy about World Cup tournaments regarding cricket and football. Professional sportsmen have lucrative careers if they’re lucky enough, even becoming celebrities and legends that inspire others in their respective games.

If we’re interested in any kind of sports, we should also take out the time to learn about the earliest versions of these activities. Many of the ancient civilizations developed the beginnings of the modern sports we know today, probably through the innovative use of equipment and activities that humans already had for survival purposes. With this discussion, we can get to know our current sports in a more in-depth manner. Below are just some of the earliest sports in the world:


It’s believed that gymnastics was invested back in 500 BCE in Ancient Greece. As we know, the Greeks were also responsible for coming up with the idea of the Olympics. However, gymnastics initially started out as a way to prepare men for the purpose of war. This eventually developed into a popular sport during the Hellenic period from 323 to 31 BCE.

After the Roman invasion of Greece, gymnastics also became a popular training actbv9ty for the Roman army. In 393 AD, however, the Olympics became outlawed and the sport of gymnastics almost faded away.

Fortunately, gymnastics saw a comeback in the late 1700s and early 1800, mainly thanks to the German doctors Friedrich Ludwig Jahn and Johann Friedrich GutsMuths. These individuals designed the pommel horse, the parallel bars, balancing beam, vaulting horse, and several other pieces of gymnastic equipment for proper exercise.

Tsu Chu

Tsu Chu

This sport is also known as Cuju and was invented way back in 2500 BCE. The origin of the game is believed to be China. It started out as a ball game around that time, with the objective being to kick the ball through a hole contained by a net. FIFA now recognizes this as one of the earliest versions of football or American soccer.

The first mention of Tsu Chu is believed to be inside a military manual. This was published in the third or second centuries BCE and mentioned Tsu Chi mainly as an exercise. However, it became a popular royal sport in 206 BCE to 220 AD, which was the time of the Han Dynasty. The Han emperor called Wu Di was also a fan of this sport. Later, however, the popularity of the sport declined with the Ming Dynasty from 1368 to 1644.

Today, many Americans regard football as their favorite sports and have been obsessed with it since a young age. The history of football is a much more detailed one and worth reading up on.



The young generation today might mostly be interested in boxing due to the famous ‘Rocky’ series that started back in the ‘80s. However this sport is even older than the earliest versions of football, having been invented around 3000 BCE. This invention probably occurred within the Sumerian civilization in Ancient Southern Mesopotamia, a region we now know as Iraq.

We can say this due to the early depictions of boxing from certain Sumerian relics dating back to the early second/third millennium BCE. One relief shows two men with their fists clenched and arms bent in the classic boxing posture. While these figures didn’t wear gloves, the stance is unmistakable.

Ancient cultures are usually believed to box without gloves. It’s possible that the Minoans were the first-ever civilization that used gloves for boxing. This sport became a part of the Olympics in 688 BCE, where the boxers used leather thongs wrapped around their hands to gain some protection. What we now know as modern boxing first came about from the prizefights in the 16th and 18th century within Great Britain.

If you’d prefer to read up on something a little less violent, these famous traditional Japanese sports might be of interest.


Swimming is not just a sport, but a great exercise and survival skill as well. However, its first own depiction as a competitive activity dates back to 6000 BCE in the Libyan Desert. This depiction is called the ‘Cave of Simmers’ and shows people performing the doggy paddle and breaststroke we know today. Some might say that the drawings aren’t related to swimming at all, though.

While swimming didn’t really emerge as being a competitive sport until the 19th century, it’s believed that England is one of the first countries to recognize it as such. The National Swimming Society of England also looked upon swimming as a sort of recreation, organizing competitions that became quite popular. This sport became a part of the Olympics in the year 1896, though only for men at first.


Archery is one of the oldest known sports, dating all the way back to 20,000 BCE. The exact location of its origin is unknown for now, with the very oldest evidence being unearthed in the African continent.

According to evidence, we can determine that the actual bow and arrow set was probably invented around the tail-end of the Upper Paleolithic era. This means that archery was probably an essential part of human civilization for several centuries. It might have started out only being used for hunting, while the practice is also evident in several ancient mythologies. We know about the bow and arrow of the Roman god named Cupid, while the Greek hero Achilles also suffered from an arrow wound in his heel.  There’s also proof of the Ancient Egyptians using archery for warfare and hunting purposes.

Additionally, several ancient civilizations-the Japanese, Chinese, Indians, Parthians, and Persians- included several archers within their armies. The sport was eventually included in the Olympics in 1900. While it disappeared from the event after 1920, the year 1972 saw archery coming back to the Olympics.


While some sports might be more popular on a mainstream level, there’s no doubt that most of them are very important for their own communities. Sports keep us alert, active, and can even foster better relationships with other countries and cultures. We should read up a little on the history of these important activities, as they might have more influence over our lives than we currently realize. For those who are fans of the NBA, for instance, this history of basketball might be a most enlightening read.

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