Although the exact origins of the game are unknown it most likely began as a simple game played by mounted Iranian nomads in Central Asia, from where it spread to Persia and beyond. In time polo became a Persian national sport played extensively by the nobility. During the period of the Parthian Empire (247 BC to 224 AD), the sport had great patronage under the kings and noblemen. It was also part of royal education for the Sasanian ruling class. Valuable for training cavalry, the game was played from Constantinople to Japan by the Middle Ages. The game also spread south to Arabia, India and Tibet. The game spread to South Asia where it has had a strong presence in the north western areas of present-day Pakistan.
The modern game of polo is derived from Manipur, India, where the game was known as 'Sagol Kangjei', 'Kanjai-bazee', or 'Pulu'. The oldest polo ground in the world is the Imphal Polo Ground in Manipur State. The world’s first polo club, the Silchar Polo Club was founded in 1859, west of Manipur, by British military officers and tea planters, after Lieutenant Joe Sherer saw the locals playing polo. The oldest club in the world which is still in existence is the Calcutta Club, established in 1862. Military officers imported the game to Britain in the 1860s and the British are credited with spreading polo worldwide in the late 19th century at the height of its empire, also in Malta, Australia, Argentina and the rest of the Americas.
The first rules of the game were formulated in India in the 1870s, but the first official written rules were created by Irishman Captain John Watson. These were revised in 1874 to create the Hurlingham Rules. The first international competition took place in 1886 when the United States challenged the English, then the undisputed world leaders in polo, for the Westchester Cup. Polo was played in the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924 and 1936. The Federation of International Polo (FIP) was established in 1982. FIP works to return polo to the Olympics. It is still a recognised sport under the International Olympic Committee. The first World Championship was held in 1987, hosted by Argentina.