There is no surprise to the fact that sports are often violent and bloody. Even the gentleman’s game cricket is prone to occasional scuffles. Some of the ancient counterparts are simply terrifying. Take a look at the list of Top 10 Extremely Violent Sports From The Past.
Extremely Violent Sports From The Past
10. Pelota Purépecha, Mexico
Invented by the native Purépechan, who lived in the Mexican state of Michoacan, the game is a form of ancient hockey where the ball is lit on fire with the help of pine resins. Like hockey, the players of two teams batter the fiery ball in an attempt to get it across the goal line marked on either side of the field.
The game is played at night so that the fiery ball – known as a zapandukua – makes the game look remarkable in the darkness. Unfortunately, pelota purépechan is one of the 150 pre-Hispanic games that are on the verge of extinction but luckily the Mexican government is making efforts to rescue it from getting forgotten. This game surely deserves its place among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
9. Chunkey, Native American
It basically involves a disc-shaped stone rolling across the ground and the participants had to throw spears as close as possible, to the place where the stone had stopped. Originating around 600 CE in the region what is now known as the United States, it was a popular game, so much so that losers were known to have committed suicide.
Chunkey was played over a large stretch of land that served to bring a large audience mix from different regions. Gambling was common and often so passionately played that few gamblers wagered everything they owned on the game. The outcomes of losses, in this case, were very grim. Without any doubt, this game deserves its place among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
8. Pitz, Mayan Civilization
Rumored to have originated around 2,500 BC, Pitz was often played to settle disputes among the Mayan people. There were different variations of this game with different rules in each of them. The most popular one, among the many versions, was in which the player would strike the ball with his hip; some of the other versions involved hand stones, rackets, bats, and forearms. This game deserves its mention among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because the ball weighed 4 kg (9lbs) made out of solid rubber, but the size differed with the variation of the game. This sport, more often than not, was associated with rituals and it is said that captives who were given a chance to play the game and had lost it, were beheaded. But such games were believed to be rigged beforehand.
7. Buzkashi, Central Asia
Made memorable by its depiction in films like Rambo III (1988), Khuda Gawah (1992) – Buzkashi is a game developed by the Turkic people around the 10th or 15th centuries. The term literally means ‘goat bashing’ and has, since its inception evolved as the national sports of Afghanistan. Traditionally, two teams of players, mount on horses and endeavor to drag the corpse of a headless goat (sometimes a calf or a sheep instead) into the goal with is nothing but a circle. You can clearly understand why it is one of the most absurd sports in the world.
The rider must lean down by the side of their horses, often when the corpse falls on the ground, and garb it. Since the game rouses fierceness, a player sometimes, disregarding the rules, whip their opponents and deliberately knock them off their saddle. During the Taliban regime, the sport was banned on grounds of immorality. This game also deserves its place among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
6. Harpastum, Roman Civilization
Galen, the prominent ancient physician opined that harpastum was the greatest of exercise “with varying degrees of strenuousness”. The term harpastum implies ‘to seize, to snatch.’ Not much is known about the rules of the game except for the fact it was terribly violent and that one to the Greek audience happened to have fallen in the middle of the play and broke his leg. Athenaeus, a Greek rhetorician & grammarian had written about the game, he said, “great are the exertion and fatigue attendant upon contests of ball-playing and violent twisting and turning of the neck.”
The comic poet, Antiphanes described the game in his writing as “He seized the ball and passed it to a team-mate while dodging another and laughing. He pushed it out of the way of another. Another fellow player he raised to his feet. All the while the crowd resounded with shouts of Out of bounds, Too far, Right beside him, Over his head, On the ground, Up in the air, Too short, Pass it back in the scrum.” Sound like an old version of Rugby.
5. Hurling, Ireland
Quiet a violent game with a 3,000-year-old history and is known as the world’s fastest field game where the speed of the ball reaches up to 145 kilometers per hour. The objective is basically to hurl a ball – called sliotar – with the help of a wooden stick – called hurley – into the opponents’ goal post. And it is not uncommon for the players to get hurt and bruised bloody by the end of the game. Although, this one is still one of the least popular sports in the world.
In the past, the game is known to have involved hundreds of players and lasting for several hours, even days. In 1904, Hurling was included as an unofficial sport in the US Summer Olympics but since then, it has never again been including in the Olympics. No wonder! However, it deserves its mention among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
4. He’e Holua (Or Hawaiian Lava Sledding), Hawaii
The game of He’e Holua is Hawaiian for ‘sled surfing’ which is like wave surfing that necessitates sledding down the side of a volcano mountain’s naturally or man-made courses of rock on a large sledge while standing up, lying down or kneeling. In the past, he’e holua was often associated with religious rituals for honoring the Hawaiian goddess of fire and volcanoes, Pele. And now, this game holds the fourth place among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
Originating more than 2000 years ago, the sledges used were made of coconut fiber and wood, which traveled down the slope at the breathtaking speed of up to 80 kilometers per hour. Christian missionaries brought the sports to a stop in the 19th century but in the recent past, Hawaiians have taken to he’e hölua as a means to keep their ancient culture alive.
3. Fishermen’s Jousting, Egypt
As the name suggests, this sport involved pushing and shoving your opponent boatmen into the water who’d then became a feast for hippos and crocodiles roaming underneath. The two teams rode on papyrus boats and used boat poles to knock the other team off their balance. The idea is to knock them into the jaws of the beasts inside the water. Surprisingly, this sport is still played in countries like France, Switzerland, and Germany but in a much less-brutal manner.
Called ‘water jousting’, it is played among two adversaries propelled on a platform on the stern of a boat who try to send the other one-off into the water while maintaining her/his ground on the platform. This one surely deserves its place among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
2. Pato, Argentina
The game of pato is the national sport of Argentina since 1953. The term pato literally means ‘duck game’ for the early version of the game involved live ducks. Accounts of playing pato have been found dating back to 1610. Players had to be on horseback with a duck (now replaced with a ball) in the basket. The first team to reach their own casco (ranch house) would win. This game often had monetary rewards at stake which made the sport so violent. At one point in 1796, several men died while playing pato. There were quite a few overwhelming amounts of deaths were denied Christian burials.
Later in the 19th century, the government altogether banned the game. But in the 1930s, a set of rules inspired by modern-day polo brought into pato. It created legitimacy so much so that the President declared it to be the county’s national game. Pato now deserves its mention among the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past.
1. Naumachia, Rome
Said to have been initiated by none other than Julius Caesar in 46 BC. It was a bloody game where a man-made gigantic basin was made and filled with water. It also involves ships with the purpose of enacting a naval battle. The participants were normally condemned criminals who had to kill everyone on the adversary ship in order to win. In this way, this lesser-known Roman game was much bloodier than the gladiator. We all know, Gladiator did not necessarily end with the death of the loser(s). The participants were, of course, not given any formal training.
The combat sometimes had pseudo-historical themes where each of the fleet participating represented a historical maritime power and therefore, such spectacle was regarded with greater significance and reserved for occasions like victory or the king’s birthday. Speaking of the fleet, the largest recorded naumachia is said to have had a hundred ships. They were divided into two opposing fleets. It involved nineteen thousand participants set up in 52 AD by Emperor Claudius in Lake Fucino.
So, this is our list of the top 10 extremely violent sports from the past. We hope you liked this list. And, don’t forget to send us your opinion about this list in the comment box below.