American tobacco heir invited the Brits to take them on at polo, the wealthy mans’ sport that was first played in Persia centuries ago

American tobacco heir invited the Brits to take them on at polo, the wealthy mans’ sport that was first played in Persia centuries ago ... 25/08/2016 History

Keywords:#American, #Asia, #Australia, #Britain, #British, #Byzantine, #Byzantine_Empire, #Calcutta, #China, #Chowgun, #Daily_Telegraph, #England, #French, #Fulham, #Gold, #History, #India, #Miniature, #Muslim, #New_York, #Newport, #News, #Persia, #Persian, #Rhode_Island, #Safavid, #Sydney, #Troy, #US

An illustration of polo players from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News in 1886.

* * * Troy Lennon, History editor, The Daily Telegraph
August 24, 2016 6:30pm

Chowgun illustration co-play in Persian style

* * * IN the smoky haze of the Hurlingham Club in Fulham 130 years ago, a visiting American named Nathaniel Griswold “Grizzy” Lorillard, heir to a tobacco fortune, mentioned during dinner that polo was now being played in America. His British hosts were keenly interested and after discussion about how each played the game, it was suggested that a transatlantic challenge match should be set up.
Grizzy accepted, offering to pay for transporting horses and players to New York for a match. It led to the first major international polo match, between the British team Hurlingham and the US team from Westchester, on August 25, 1886, establishing a tradition of polo rivalry between the two nations.
Polo is a sport with ancient roots, first played in Persia as early as the 6th century as a way of training cavalrymen or simulating battles. While it initially had a following among tribal warriors in later centuries it became a sport played almost exclusively by Persian nobles. It would later be taken up in other nations across Asia, including China and the eastern parts of the Byzantine Empire, where their version of the sport was known as tzykanion. The Byzantines built huge stadiums to stage matches and Byzantine emperor Alexander III is said to have died from exhaustion while playing a game.
The Arabs discovered the sport when the Muslim armies invaded Persia in the 7th century and their Muslim conquerors exported it to India in the 13th century. Over the centuries the Indians made their own refinements to the game. In Manipur in northeastern India they played a version called pulu, which was the game that English plantation owners were introduced to in the 19th century.

Miniature illustration of Chowgun in a Persian book of poetry

* * * The first British polo club was established at Manipur in 1859 and in 1862 the Calcutta Polo Club was founded (it is still operating today, the oldest continually operating polo club in the world). British soldiers and colonialists returning from India introduced the game to sports clubs in England. Hurlingham, which had originally been founded as a pigeon shooting club, had become a polo club in 1868. The British had also spread the game to Australia, our first club the Sydney Polo Club forming in 1870.
Over in the US in the 1870s expat Brits and Americans who had spent time in Britain began informally playing the game. One was American newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett who was describing the sport while dining in New York in 1876 with a group of wealthy friends.
On a whim he imported ponies from Texas so that his friends could play the next time they got together.

Chowgan in Safavid Persia

* * * In 1877 the Westchester Polo Club was formed, after a series of informal matches were played at a racetrack in Westchester, New York. One of its best known patrons was Grizzy Lorillard, a young man of leisure and keen sportsman who was also credited with inventing the new short, tailless dinner jacket known as the tuxedo.
On a visit to England, Lorillard’s dinner at Hurlingham resulted in plans for the first major international polo tournament (informal games had been held between British and French teams some time before).
The Hurlingham team, captained by the great Irish polo wiz John Watson, arrived in New York in early August 1886 on board the Cunard Liner Servia. A subscription was taken up to buy a trophy for the winning team, which would later be named the Westchester Cup after the American team selected to take on the British.
The game was played at Newport, Rhode Island. The Americans had tinkered with elements of the sport; getting rid of the off-side rule and also banning the hooking of polo mallets. The Brits had already agreed to play by American rules but insisted that the referee not be mounted, instead that he stand on a platform on the sidelines.
Hurlingham won the first match 10-4 and then a second match 14-2. It kicked off an international polo series. The British won the next series in 1902, but the US won their first Westchester Cup in 1909 and have won nine times in total to the British six times.
Australia has also had its rivalry with the British over the game they introduced here. One of the great moments was when the Ashton brothers, Philip, Geoffrey, James and Robert toured England in 1937, winning the Hurlingham Gold Cup, then considered polo’s premier tournament.
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