Top 5 British Sports

Many sports are played in Britain and sporting activities have been a large part of its history. To put a finger on just one of them and say "This is the sport of the British" would be a bold statement indeed so here is a list of the top five most popular sports in Britain.

1. Horse racing

Regular racing has been a popular sport for many centuries and the oldest organised races date back to the ancient Greek Olympics where it was called a Marathon and the oldest record of running in Greece dates back to 776 BC. However, people wanted a more thrilling, fast-paced alternative and this was horse racing. Horses were the most popular means of transport for a very long time and it was only until the 1900s that automobiles were becoming more popular due to the advancement of technology. Naturally, this meant that horses were used in races among many different civilisations.

The nomadic tribesmen from the Central Asian steppes were the first people to domesticate the horse in 4500 BC and were the first to use them for racing. The Romans also used horses for racing either in the form of mounted horses or chariots and Rome's spring carnival held riderless horse racing until the 1800s.

Unofficial horse racing took place in medieval England when people who sold horses raced them to show potential buyers the speed of the horse. Richard the Lionheart (reigned 1189-99) was the first person in England to offer a reward for a horse race that was held between a group of knights, a staggering amount of £40 which, believe it or not, was a huge amount in those days, it was approximately a few years labour of a skilled tradesman!

The first organised horse races were held by Charles II (reigned 1660-85) and this continues today there are many types of horse races.

Here are a few of the popular types of horse racing:

Flat racing: A standard race where riders have to get from one point to another usually performed on a straight track or an oval-shaped one.

Jump racing or steeplechasing: This kind of race has many obstacles on the track which horses must jump over to get to the finishing line.

Harness racing: A modern version of chariot racing where the rider is pulled by the horse on a sulky which is a light two-wheeled horse-drawn cart.

Endurance racing: A cross-country horse race where the rider and horse are pushed to the limit in an ultimate test of endurance.

If you like the idea of horse racing and want to learn to ride a horse, there are some spectacular horse riding schools in London.

2. Football

Historically, football has been played all around the world and no one can say from where it originated however there is no doubt that modern football comes from Britain.

Football has bloody beginnings and the first football match was played with the head of a decapitated Danish prince who was defeated in battle. Medieval football didn't have many rules either and all sorts of violence such as kicking and biting were permitted resulting in Edward III trying to ban the sport. Football was very popular with the masses and proved very difficult to ban, in the reign of Elizabeth I people who were caught playing football were imprisoned for a week.

Folk football is an early form of football played in Britain with the goals being up to three miles apart!

In the 1800s football became increasingly popular within schools as it was seen as a character-building sport with different schools having their own set of rules for the game. It can be seen that in the early days of football, there wasn't an official version of the game.

The Football Association which was founded in 1863 made the handling of the ball forbidden in 1869 distinguishing the game from rugby. The term "soccer" is a slang word made up by students at Oxford University as a shorter word for Association and from this point on many people refer to the game as soccer.

In 1888, the English Football League was founded by twelve clubs, and a set of rules was agreed upon.

Football has come a long way and today there are many international cups and leagues with vast amounts of viewers all over the world. In 1966 England won the World Cup for the first time and we are still waiting for another win... COME ON ENGLAND!

3. Boxing

Boxing is an ancient sport and the earliest records of it date back to the 3rd millennium BC in the form of art from the Sumerian civilisation. The ancient Egyptians and Indians were also known to box as a sport with records from historical art and texts.

The Greeks had boxing as part of their Olympic games where leather thongs were used as gloves so too much damage wasn't dealt with by the competitors. The Romans advanced the sport a bit further using hardened leather on the hands but weight classes still weren't determined.

In 1867, in London, a set of rules called the Marquess of Queensberry rules were made by John Graham Chambers for all weight classes. These rules remained in use up until the formation of the Associations of Boxing Commissions.

Originally boxers were normally from middle-class backgrounds but recently the most famous boxers come from more impoverished areas in which they learned the art of fighting on the streets before making a career out of it.

4. Tennis

The word "tennis" comes from the Anglo-Norman word "tenez" which means "receive". The origins of tennis date back to 12th century France where it was known as jeu de paume or "game of the palm" as it was first played with the hand and rackets were introduced much later in the 16th century. Many of the original English tennis courts are still in use today but a number of the French courts were sadly closed during the French Revolution.

The tennis that was played in medieval England was called real tennis and was played until the Victorian era when it was played by both men and women. Modern tennis is a simplified version of real tennis, however, real tennis is still played by people who prefer it over the more popular modern version.

Today there are many great British tennis players and Andy Murray has to be the most famous and is much loved all over the world.

5. Rugby

Rugby is, without a doubt, a British sport and is not only enjoyed as a professional sport throughout the Rugby League and Rugby Union but is played by people of all ages across the country.

The origins of rugby come from the 1800s when Rugby schools played football by running with the ball resulting in this new sport being called rugby. By 1845 a set of rules was written by the school and in 1857 the first match was played by Edinburgh University vs Edinburgh Academicals.

The north of England played rugby slightly differently to the south and this led to the formation of the separate rugby league which has become a strong part of northern culture and the Rugby Union which is played all over the world.

So there you have it, the top five British sports and how they came about. Although it should be noted that there are many more sports played in Britain, these are probably the most popular.