What is the oldest sport? 10 prehistoric sports that are still active today

What is the oldest sport? 10 prehistoric sports that are still active today

What is the oldest sport? Ancient sports became a form of survival or a necessity to engage in some activities. It may be challenging to determine a single sport as the oldest, as different communities worldwide developed simultaneously different and similar sports.

What is the oldest sport
A woman doing gymnastics. Photo: @gyanoba
Source: UGC

The earliest sports were as competitive as today’s sports, with different communities using different degrees to measure participants' strength. Some sports competitions in ancient Rome and Greece resulted in the death of weak partakers.

What is the oldest sport?

Most ancient sports practised today have been modernized for convenience and to put the contestants at ease in their activities. The Olympics is the best event you can check out significant sports globally. Here are some of the oldest sports ever:

1. Gymnastics

Gymnastics test the flexibility, alertness, balance, and physical strength of a person. The earliest gymnastics is believed to have begun in Greece. It is believed that horse riders developed this sport to mount or dismount from horses using acrobatics.

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Modern gymnastics began in Germany in the 1800s. Male gymnasts compete on six events; floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar, while female gymnasts compete on 4; vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.

2. Running/sprinting

Did you know that the first event in the ancient Olympics in 776 BCE was a foot race? The winner was Koroibos, a cook from the nearby city of Elis. Even before the Olympics, human beings have been running as a sport.

Sprinting has been evolving since around four and a half million years ago. Running requires no gear, and thus it was easy for humans to engage in. One of the earliest portrayals of sprinting is found in the Lascaux caves in France, dating back to the Upper Paleolithic era.

3. Javelin throw

What is the 3rd oldest sport? Javelin throwing. Javelin throwers have to throw a stick type instrument (the javelin) as far as possible. Ancient Romans and Mycenaeans first practised javelin as a sport.

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Javelin has been evolving over the years, moving from using spears for hunting to being incorporated into the Olympics competitions. The javelins used in the Olympics are a little heavier than those used in ancient times.

4. Wrestling

What is the oldest sport
Two men wearing training gloves on the ring. Photo: @hermez777
Source: UGC

How old is wrestling? It is difficult to pinpoint where exactly wrestling started, as different cultures have been practising the sport since time immemorial. Some of the first depictions of wrestling as a sport can be traced back to the Sumerians, who lived around 5,000 years ago.

Professional wrestling, however, started in the post-civil war period in the late 1860s and 1870s. The wrestlers often got paid to entertain the masses and show their strength.

5. Archery

Is archery the oldest sport in the world? The earliest evidence of archery dates to the late Paleolithic period, around 10,000 BC. Egyptians and other Nubian communities used bows and arrows archery for hunting and warfare. Apart from the Egyptians, the Persians, Parthians, Indians, Chinese, and Japanese also practised archery.

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These cultures had Archers in their armies. Archery in Olympics began in 1900. It was contested again in 1904, 1908 and 1920. Later, there was a 52-year absence of the game as there were no set rules for archers in the Olympics, and every host country brought in their own rules and format.

6. Swimming

Humans were forced to know how to swim for survival and as a sport. The earliest swimmers documented were in the Cave of Swimmers in the Gilf Kebir plateau of the Libyan Desert.

England is credited with being the first nation to have swimming as a leisure and competitive sport for the modern man. The Olympics had the first swimming contest in 1896. Then, swimming was a men-only sport.

7. Horse riding

The earliest civilization tales show that horses were used as a mode of transport when soldiers went to war. The horses were later used for sports, with history showing the ancient Greeks and Romans engaging in horse riding as a game.

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Horse riding was first included in Olympics Games in the 1900s. The sport is split into show jumping, dressage, and eventing, with both men and women competing equally.

8. Boxing

Boxing is one of the most popular combat sports today. It is competitive and involves one on one fighting. To be a great boxer, you need to be strong, have immense speed and stamina when facing your opponent. The earliest evidence suggests that boxing originated in Greece back in 687 BC.

It was also loved in ancient Rome and attracted multiple spectators whenever there was a match. Professional boxing came to be popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries. However, the first time boxing was witnessed in Olympics was in 1904.

9. Mesoamerican ballgame

Mesoamerican ballgame country of origin is Mesoamerica. Mesoamerica covered the areas extending from modern-day central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

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The game does not have an official name, though it is mostly known as Ulama. Despite not being that popular in modern times, it is still played in the mentioned countries.

10. Long jump

What is the oldest sport
An athlete doing a long jump. Photo: @designerkayum
Source: UGC

Long jump, as a sport, was initially contested in the Ancient Olympics of 656 BC. Documented records state that the game may have come to play due to humans having to cross obstacles like streams and ravines. The sport is one of the oldest and most popular Olympics sports that attracts a huge following from fans of the modern Olympics.


  1. What is the oldest ball sport? The Mesoamerican ballgame also known as Ōllamaliztli, or Ulama.
  2. What’s the oldest country? The Republic of San Marino is the oldest country and one of the smallest countries. It is entirely landlocked and had a population of 33,938 by 2020.
  3. What is the oldest American sport? Lacrosse. It is a tribal game originating from North America
  4. What is the oldest sport with a ball? Records show that the Mayan ballgame of Pitz is thought to be the first sport with a ball. Pitz was first played around 2500 BCE.
  5. When was basketball invented? Springfield College alumnus James Naismith first invented basketball in 1891. However, the first NBA event was held in 1946.

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Prehistoric games have exciting accounts, as ancient human beings became inventive and resourceful to enjoy sports. What is the oldest sport? Gymnastics, javelin, wrestling and archery are some of them. Sports are significant as they can improve one's mental and physical well-being. Today people pursue sports as a career and get to live fulfilling lives.

Yen.com.gh shared an interesting piece about the top 10 tallest NBA players of all time and their career stats. Height is an advantage in the NBA because it helps the players defend the ball and reach the opponent's basketball goal.

Furthermore, height accompanies other crucial features in a sportsman, including hand span and arm-reach.

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Source: YEN.com.gh

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