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POLO (Tibetan pulu, ball)

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Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 12 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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POLO (Tibetan pulu, ball), the most ancient of games with stick and ball. Hockey, the Irish national game of hurling History. (and possibly golf and cricket) are derived from polo. The latter was called hockey or hurling on horse-back in England and Ireland respectively, but historically hockey and hurling are polo on foot. The earliest records of polo are Persian. From Persia the game spread westward to Constantinople, eastwards through Turkestan to Tibet, China and Japan. From Tibet polo travelled to Gilgit and Chitral, possibly also to Manipur. Polo also flourished in India in the 16th century. Then for 200 years its records in India cease, till in 1854 polo came into Bengal from Manipur by way of Cachar and in 1862 the game was played in the Punjab. There have been twelve varieties of the game during its existence of at least 2000 years. (I) A primitive form consisting of feats of horsemanship and of skill with stick and ball. (2) Early Persian, described in Shahnama, a highly organized game with rules, played four a side. (3) Later Persian, 16th century, the grounds 300 by 170 yds. Sir Anthony Shirley says the game resembled the rough football of the same period in England. (4) The game in the 17th century in Persia. A more highly organized game than No. 3, as described by Chardin. (5) The Byzantine form played at Constantinople in the 12th century. A leathern ball the size of an apple and a racquet were used. (6) The Chinese game, about A.D. 600 played with a light wooden ball. The goal was formed by two posts with a boarding between, in the latter a hole being cut and a net attached to it in the form of a bag. The side which hit the ball into the bag were the winners. Another Chinese form was two teams ranged on opposite sides of the ground, each defending its own goal. The object of the game was to drive the ball through the enemy's goal. (7) The Japanese game, popular in feudal times, still survives under the name of Dakiu, or ball match. The Japanese game has a boarded goal; 5 ft. from the ground is a circular hole I ft. 2 in. in diameter with a bag behind. The balls are of. paper with a cover of pebbles or bamboo fibre, diameter 1 7 in., weight 1i oz. The sticks are racket shaped. The object is to lift over or carry the ball with the racket and place it in the bag. (8) Called rol, played with a long stick with which the ball was dribbled along the ground. (9) Another ancient Indian form in which the sides ranged up on opposite sides of the ground and the ball was thrown in. This is probably the form of the game which reached India from Persia and is represented at the present day by Manipur and Gilgit polo, though these forms are probably rougher than the old Indian game. (To) Modern English with heavy ball and sticks, played in England and the colonies and wherever polo is played in Europe. Its characteristics are: offside; severe penalties for breach of the rules; close combination; rather short passing; low scoring, and a strong defence. (II) Indian polo has a lighter ball, no boards to the grounds, which are usually full-sized; a modified offside-rule, but the same system of penalties. -It is a quicker game than the English. (12) The American game has no offside and no penalties, in the English sense. The attack is stronger, the passing longer, the pace greater and more sustained. American players are more certain are very slight, and they tend to assimilate more as time goes on. Polo in the army is governed by an army polo committee, which fixes the date of the inter-regimental tournament. The semi-finals and finals are played at Hurlingham. The earlier ties take place at centres arranged by the army polo committee, who are charged by the military authorities with the duty of checking the expenditure of officers on the game. The value of polo as a military exercise is now fully recognized, and with the co-operation of Hurlingham, Ranelagh and Roehampton the expenses of inter-regimental tournaments have been regulated and restrained. The County Polo Association has affiliated to it all the county clubs. It is a powerful body, arranging the conditions of county tournaments, constructing the handicaps for county players, and in conjunction with the Ranelagh club holding a polo week for county players in London. The London clubs are three—Hurlingham, Ranelagh and Roehampton. Except that they use Hurlingham rules the clubs are independent, and arrange the conditions and fix the dates of their own tournaments. Ranelagh has four, Roehampton three and Hurlingham two polo grounds. There are about 400 matches played at these clubs, besides members' games from May to July during the London season. At present the Meadowbrook still hold the cup which was won Inter- by an English team in 1886. In 1902 an American national team made an attempt to recover it and failed. Polo. They lacked ponies and combination; but they bought the first and learned the second, and tried again successfully in 1909, thus depriving English polo of the championship of the world. Polo in England has passed through several stages. It was always a game of skill. The cavalry regiments in India in early The Game. polo days, the 5th, 9th, 12th and 17th Lancers, the loth Hussars and the 13th Hussars, had all learned the value of combination. In very early days regimental players had learned the value of the backhanded stroke, placing the ball so as to give opportunities to their own side. The duty of support- ing the other members of the team and riding off opponents so as to clear the way for players on the same side was understood. This combination was made, easier when the teams were reduced from five a side to four. Great stress was laid on each man keeping his place, but a more flexible style of play existed from early days in the 17th Lancers and was improved and perfected at the Rugby Club by the late Colonel Gordon Renton and Captain E. D. Miller, who had belonged to that regiment. For a long time the Rugby style of play, with its close combination, short passes and steady defence, was the model on which other teams formed themselves. The secret of the success of Rugby was the close and unselfish combination and the hard work done by every member of the team. After the American victories of 1909 a bolder, harder hitting style was adopted, and the work of the forwards became more important, and longer passes are now the rule. But the main principles are the same. The forwards lead the attack and are supported by the half-back and back when playing towards the adversaries' goal. In defence the forwards hamper the opposing No. 3 and No. 4 and endeavour to clear the way for their own No. 3 and No. 4, who are trying not merely to keep the ball out of their own goal but to turn defence into attack'. Each individual player must be a good horseman, able to make a pony gallop, must have a control of the ball, hitting hard and clean and in the direction he wishes it to go. He must keep his eye on the ball and yet know where the goal-posts are, must be careful not to incur penalties and quick to take advantage of an opportunity. Polo gives no time for second thoughts. A polo player must not be in a hurry, but he must never be slow nor dwell on his stroke. He must be able to hit when galloping his best pace on to the ball and able to use the speed of his pony in order to get pace. He must be able to hit a backhander or to meet a ball coming to him, as the tactics of the game require. Polo has given rise to a new type of horse, an animal of 14 hands 2 in. with the power of a hunter, the courage of a racehorse and the docility of a pony. At first the ponies were small, but now each pony must pass the Hurlingham official measurer and be entered on the register. The English The Polo system of measurement is the fairest and most Pony humane possible. The pony stripped of his clothing is led by an attendant, not his own groom, into a box with a perfectly level floor and shut off from every distraction. A veterinary surgeon examines to see that the pony is neither drugged nor in any way improperly prepared. The pony is allowed to stand easily, and measuring standard with a spirit-level is then placed on the highest point of the wither, and if the pony measures 14.2 and is five years old it is registered for life. Ponies are of many breeds. There are Arabs, Argentines, Americans, Irish and English ponies, the last two being the best. The Polo and Riding Pony Society, with headquarters at 12 Hanover Square, looks after the interests of the English and Irish pony and encourages their breeders. The English ponies are now bred largely for the game and are a blend of thoroughbred blood (the best are always the race-winning strains) or Arab and of the English native pony. AUTHORITIES:—Polo in England: J. Moray Brown, Riding and Polo, Badminton Library, revised and brought up to date by T. F. Dale (Longmans, 1899) ; Captain Younghusband, Polo in India, (tad.) ; J. Moray Brown, Polo (Vinton, 1896); T. F. Dale, The Game of Polo (A. Constable & Co., 1897) ; Captain Younghusband, Tournament Polo (1897) ; Captain de Lisle, Durham Light Infantry, Hints to Polo Players in India (1897) ; T. B. Drybrough, Polo (Vinton, 1898; revised, Longmans, 1906); Captain E. D. Miller, Modern Polo (19o4); H. L. Fitzpatrick, Equestrian Polo, in Spalding's Athletic Library (1904); Major G. J. Younghusband, Tournament Polo (1904); T. F. Dale " Polo, Past and Present," Country Life; Walter Buckmaster, " Hints on Polo Combination," Library of Sport (George Newnes Ltd., 1905 ; Vinton & Co., 1909) ; Hurlingham Club, Rules of Polo, Register of Ponies; Polo and Riding Pony Society Stud Book (12 vols., 12 Hanover Square). Annuals: American Polo Association, 143 Liberty Street, New York; Indian Polo Association, Lucknow, N. P.; Captain E. D. Miller, D.S.O., The Polo Players' Guide and Almanack ; The Polo Annual, ed. by L. V. L. Simmonds. Monthlies: Bailey's Magazine (Vinton & Co.); The Polo Monthly (Craven House, Kingsway, London). Polo in Persia: Firdousi's Shahnama, translated as Le Livre des rois by J. Mohl, with notes and comm.; Sir Anthony Shirley, Travels in Persia (1569); Sir John Chardin, Voyages en Pease (1686), ed. aug. de notes, &c. par L. Langles, 1811; Sir William Ouseley, Travels in Various Countries of the East, particularly Persia (181o). There are many allusions to polo in the poets, notably Nizami, Jami and Omar Khayyam. Polo in Constantinople: Cinnamus Joannes epitome rerum; ab Joanne et Alexio Commenis gest. (Bonn, 1836). Polo in India: Ain-i-Akbari (1555); G. F. Vigne, Travels in Kashmir (Ladakh and Iskardo, 1842); Colonel Algernon Durand, The Making of a Frontier (1899). Polo in Gilgit and Chitral: " Polo in Baltistan." The Field (1888); Polo in Manipur, Captain McCulloch, Manipuris and the Adjacent Tribes (1859). (T. F. D.)
End of Article: POLO (Tibetan pulu, ball)
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Additional information and Comments

There are a great variety of games played on horseback, but beyond doubt modern polo is issued from the Tibetan game. rTa pulu (horse ball) played in Tibet as early as in the 7th century. The game was introduced by Tibetans to the Chinese Emperor's court in the eighth century. After the defeat of the Chinese army in Bolor (Western Ladakh) in 756 the Chinese made polo a compulsory sport in the Chinese army as was the case in Tibet. With time, possibly under the influence of the monks, polo was abandoned in Central and Eastern Tibet but was continuously played in Ladakh and Baltistan (today a Tibetan speakin moslem district of Pakistan, anciently part of Kashmir). It was in Baltistan and neighbouring Gilgit that the British became familiar with rTa Pulu or Polo in 1856, at the same time a different game played in Manipur over a 1000 miles to the East was also observed by British officers. This game was very different from the Polo played in Ladakh. A study of the Tibetan rules show that the British adopted most if not all the rules from Tibetan Polo. My personal study as a Tibetologist and polo player of the Tibetan game and its rules as played in Ladakh and Baltistan confirm that polo must be conisdered to have its origin in Tibet and not as generally believed in Persia. In Persia was played another possibly similar game about which we have little information.
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