This being an Olympic year (2024), can you guess how many sports will be contested in Paris, France? If you said 32, one less than the 2021 edition, you are right. Olympic Games have been around for as long as we can remember. However, the number of contested games hasn’t always been the same – some have been scrapped, with plenty of others added. In the spirit of the Olympics, we look at some abandoned sports humanity once enjoyed.

1. Jousting

You must be familiar with jousting if you have watched movies or TV shows on mediavel times, such as Game of Thrones and A Knight’s Tale. The sport entailed two horsemen standing on opposite sides of each other. Each horse rider held a lance pointed straight and charged towards each other.

The first horseman to knock the other from his horse would be declared the winner. Jousting was banned in the 17th century because it was violent and dangerous. It is one of the world’s oldest equestrian sports and was once officially recognized as an Olympic sport.

2. Hestavig

Hestavig was a very popular sport in Northern Europe, especially during the Viking era between the 10th and 13th centuries. It entailed putting two stallions between crowds and encouraging them to fight.

Despite being violent and ferocious, Hestavig was a unique sport that played a unique role in the communities that practiced it. For instance, recently married folk would use these fights to bond with one another, while rival chiefs used them to end their feuds. It was also part of the Olympic sports at some point.

3. Chariot Racing

During the Roman Empire, chariots were the main form of transport (even mentioned in some religious texts such as the Bible). So, it makes sense that the locals would use these horse-drawn carts for racing. Racers would connect a chariot (typically smaller and only fit one racer) to a horse and then drive around a 5.2-mile track.

Each team would be given its color, and fans sat around the stadium, spectating and cheering for their favorite ones. Enslaved people were also allowed to participate in chariot racing and even constituted the majority of the charioteers. The sport was so popular that it continued for a while, even after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476 AD.

4. Pankration

Pankration was a Greek sport that combined boxing and wrestling. It didn’t have many rules, leading to the belief that it set precedence for the modern-day Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It only had two rules: no biting and no gouging of the eyes, nose or mouth. Contestants had to fight until one was severely beaten or died.

During the early days of pankration, participants would fight naked and oiled. As time went on, the fighters started wearing thongs. In 648 BC, pankration was introduced to the Olympics but was later banned because it was considered unsafe.

5. Auto Polo

Auto polo was almost similar to equestrian polo; the only difference is that auto polo used cars instead of horses. In the sport, two teams on either side drove their cars while hitting a small ball with wooden mallets, trying to score in the opponents’ goal.

Auto Polo was introduced by Ralph Hankinson, a Ford dealer based in Topeka, in 1911 as a publicity stunt aimed at selling Model T vehicles. However, The game was abandoned in the late 1920s as it was expensive and extremely dangerous.

6. Fox Tossing

Fox tossing was a very popular sport, especially in the 17th and 18th centuries. Two teams would stand on opposite sides and toss foxes into the air. The team that tossed the foxes the highest was considered the winner.

Of course, fox tossing was very cruel to animals, so it was only a matter of time before the participants came to their senses and abandoned the sport. Interestingly, at a time when most sports were gender-biased, fox tossing was open to both males and females.

7. Ground Billiards

As its name suggests, ground billiards is almost similar to modern-day billiards. The only difference is that the traditional version was played on lawns. Players used maces (long-handled mallets) to hit the balls into the holes and score points.

Sadly, ground billiards were not considered dangerous but were abandoned anyway. The game evolved into an indoor game with much-improved equipment and boosted efficiency.

8. Naumachia

Naumachia was a water-based sport where two ships were placed in an arena, and the participants were asked to simulate a sea battle. Most of them were enslaved people who had no option but to participate. One of the best Naumachia sports in history was held in 46 BC after Julius Caesar conquered Pompey; more than 6,000 people participated. However, even that did not erase the fact that Naumachia was very expensive to host, and the level of inhumanity was just absurd. By 1 AD, the game had been abandoned.

9. Camping

Sometimes referred to as campan, campion, or campball, camping is an abandoned sport that was very common in the 14th century. It was a ball game (similar to modern-day football) comprising 10 to 15 players. The objective was to carry the ball to the opponent’s side, which would count as a goal as the opposing teammates tried to prevent that from happening. The game had many physical altercations, and it’s probably why camping was abandoned.

10. Canoe Tilting

In canoe tilting, players would stand on different canoes and attempt to knock each other over – the first one to fall into the water lost. Over time, more rules were added. The most popular one was if an opponent forced their rival to put their feet on the seat, the one on the offensive would be awarded 10 points. 10 more points were awarded if an opponent forced their rival to lose their spear. Canoe tilting was popular in the 1920s.

11. Cock Throwing

Just like fox tossing, cock throwing is another abandoned game that was brutal to animals. It involved tying a rooster to a post, and participants would take turns throwing sticks at it. Whoever was the first to kill the cock was considered the winner. They continued even when the bird’s legs or wings were broken.

Fortunately, many people were opposed to the sport, which was evident in 1660 when a riot broke out in Bristol protesting and demanding a stop to cat tossing and cock throwing games.


Categorized in:

General Knowledge, History,

Last Update: April 26, 2024