The sport of the kings, polo, is one of the oldest known sports – a game played on horseback between two teams of four players who use a long flexible wooden mallet to drive the ball to their opposite goals. There are various versions of polo – beach polo, indoor polo, snow polo, paddock polo, each governed by the same rules and regulations of the game. You might wonder if there is a common factor that stands similar in all types of polo games. If you think the answer is horses, I would fervidly disagree.
Human beings crave change, which boosted the new changes brought in the game of polo. Polo is no longer restricted to players riding horses! Interestingly enough, there are some new variants to this centuries-old sport. Polo is now also played on elephants, bikes, segways and Tuk-tuks.
Let’s explore each of them individually!
The British aristocrats first introduced elephant polo in the late 20th century. In Thailand, where elephants have a considerable impact on their culture, this sport was considered the most expensive, lavish, slowest and biggest sport. Thailand conducted the World Elephant Polo Championships annually there. We can find this weird variant of polo in different countries like Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, England and Scotland. In Nepal, the Tiger Tops Tournament took place. Tiger Tops was the headquarters of elephant polo in Nepal. However, in Sri Lanka, the Taprobane Trophy Elephant Polo Tournament used to take place every year.
Earlier, a soccer ball was used to play this sport, but after noticing how easily the elephants smashed them, they were replaced by the classic polo ball. The size of the polo sticks depends on the height of the elephants, ranging from 6-9 feet.
Due to the extravagant size of the elephants, there are two people seated on each elephant. The mahouts steer the elephants, and the player sits behind the mahout, guiding him and hitting the ball with a long mallet made from a cane. Mahouts drive the elephants by verbal commands and by putting pressure in the back of the elephant’s ear with their feet. Mahouts can guide the elephants easily because they have lots of prior experience with the animal. The player’s responsibility is to tell the mahout in which direction to move, how fast, and hit the ball to the opposite goal post.
As the name suggests, this variant is played on bicycles instead of horses. The player has one hand on the steering and the other holding the mallet. The origin of bicycle polo dates back to the late 19th century, but it only gained popularity in the 2000s. There are two versions of this variant too. One is played on grass, and the other is played on hardcourt. The hardcourt bicycle polo gained enormous popularity in the early 21st century. Rules and regulations less govern this version. The player cannot touch the floor with his feet while hitting the ball or making contact with it.
Cycle polo is popular in India. The Cycle Polo Federation of India was formed in 1966 and is located in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The first men’s nationals were played in 1970 at New Delhi, where the Rajasthan team snatched the victory. In fact, the Indian team has come out victorious 5 times, which is the highest by any team, in the International Bicycle Polo Championship. The recent win was in 2016.
Just imagine! A game of polo could literally be played on a segway! Like horse polo, segway polo is a new game that follows the same rules and regulations as any regular polo game. The players in this sport, instead of playing on horseback, drive a segway on the field. Similar to any traditional polo game, this sport too consists of five players on the field. After being played on 11th July 2004 by Bay Area Segway Enthusiasts at the San Francisco Bay Segway area, this team sport gained great popularity. It is now known as the birthplace of Segway Polo. Its rules have been adapted from bike polo and the traditional horse polo. Although it’s not a major sport, it’s gaining some good popularity in the United States, Germany, Barbados, Lebanon, UK, Poland & Spain.
The Segway World Championship is also called the Woz Challenge Cup. It is named after the Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak who also was a player of segway polo. The Woz Cup was established in 2006 when the first game was held successfully in Auckland, New Zealand.
Most recently the venue for the Woz Cup was Stockholm, Sweden in 2019.
The credit behind this bizarre and crazy idea of tuk-tuk polo goes to Sri Lanka. Out of all the variants of polo I have mentioned above, this one is the most interesting. Let alone horses, players drive tuk-tuk, a special kind of three-wheeler rickshaw, and play polo. This was the replacement to elephant polo as one year one of the elephants went on a rampage, and they had to discontinue the sport. The field is the same as used in polo, which is smooth enough to ply the vehicle. Like elephant polo, there are two people in each tuk-tuk, one responsible for piloting the vehicle and the other who uses a mallet stick to hit the ball. The player has to instruct the driver on the speed and direction of the vehicle. The point of the game is just like any game, to score the maximum number of goals. This sport has gained popularity in the southern parts of Asia and India, to be specific. However, there is no formal recognition given to this particular variant.
Let us know in the comments of other weird sports that you know of.