What Type of Sports Were Played in the Middle Ages?

Most of the information about Medieval history revolves around their religion and church. But did you know that the people in those times also knew how to entertain themselves? More than their festivals and music, people in the Middle Ages have also enjoyed playing a wide variety of games and sports.

In fact, many of the sports we play in the present time can be traced back to the Middle Ages even ones like Club Swinging (yes its a sport). However, the sports they played way back had vague rules which took on deadly proportions. More than being physically demanding, their sports had little to zero emphasis on safety. Despite of these hazards, many Medieval residents were still eager to join in the fun.

Sports in the Middle Ages were created to add more color and life to their warlike and gloomy era. These events were also the best venues to showcase he influence and power of knights and nobles. Most of their sports were held in conjunctions with festivals where people from across the land gathered to bear witness to such glorious occasions. Since people in the Medieval times had a lot of time to spare, they spent eight weeks of leisure every year to watch sporting events.

In the Middle Ages, feudalism can be described as a Pyramid of Power and anyone has the possibility of moving higher up the ranks of the pyramid which everyone aspired to do. A Knight who was successful at sporting events or who proved valiant in battles would become wealthy and his wealth could pay for a castle. Also, his importance in the land would increase and he would be one of the nobles.

It goes the same with a peasant who excelled in Medieval sports and won at sporting contests. He would gain an important reputation, his position in life would improve, and his value would be increased by his lord.

If you are wondering what sports they played, here are the type of sports that were played in the Middle Ages.



This was the most popular sport in the Middle Ages. In fact, it wasn’t only a sport but was also a skill that every Englishmen between the ages 15 and 60 should attain according to the law that was passed in 1252. Archery training during the Medieval period of the Middle Ages were held in designated areas called Butts.

The Long Bow was invented by Englishmen and it was an important weapon which defeated French in the Battle of Crecy in 1346. Based on historical estimates, there were about 2,000 French knights and soldiers that were killed by long bow arrows compared to the English who just lost 50 soldiers.

Jousting Tournaments

jousting tournament

Jousting tournaments were the really big sporting events in the Middle Ages. However, these sports were dangerous and many men were killed in these sports. Knights who participated in these sports had undergone Quintain and Pell Training. Men at arms as well as Feudal Lords and Knights used weapons such as swords, lances, daggers, and battle axes. In fact, most of the Medieval sports were designed to provide practice in using these weapons.

Other Types of Medieval Sports

Aside from the popular archery and jousting tournaments, there were other sports played in the Middle Ages. Here are some of them:

  • Colf: This was the ancestor of Golf and considered as a sport for the nobles.
  • Gameball: This was the same as the simple football game we play in the present time.
  • Hurling or Shinty: This sport was similar to a game of hockey.
  • Horsehoes: The goal of this sport was to throw horseshoes at a target.
  • Skittles: This was an ancestor of the modern ten-pin bowling.
  • Stoolball: This was an ancestor of Cricket.
  • Bowls
  • Wrestling
  • Hammer-throwing
  • Quarter-staff contests

Indoor Games in the Middle Ages

Most of the sports played in the Middle Ages were designed to increase fighting skills of knights, soldiers, as well as peasants. But aside from these sports, the medieval society of Europe also enjoyed some peaceful and entertaining games such as chess, backgammon, nine men’s Morris, and alquerques. These were all strategy games which were considered as the ancestors of checkers, and fox and geese and they certainly had unusual sports equipment as well.

These were the type of sports that were played in the Middle Ages. Unlike today where we get instant scores on many sports at options like livescore, back then it was all about the local scene.  Even though this era was known to be dark and gloomy, it’s interesting to know that it also had a part where people were able to have fun.