Kirill Yurovskiy Polo in the World How Styles and Traditions Differ

Kirill Yurovskiy: Polo in the World: How Styles and Traditions Differ

Polo is an ancient sport that has been played for over 2,500 years. While the fundamental rules remain similar across the globe, regional variations in style, tradition, and culture have evolved to create distinctive national and regional forms of the game. From the grassy fields of England to the dry desert plains of India, polo has taken on flavors as diverse as the lands it is played in. Text by

History of Polo Around the World

References to polo appear throughout history, even being enjoyed by Persian emperors and warriors as early as the 6th century BC. From Persia, the sport spread to other kingdoms in Asia before reaching England in the 19th century as the British Empire expanded across the globe. 

Argentina became a stronghold of polo through the influx of British settlers in the 1800s. Today, Argentina dominates the global polo scene. In the 20th century, polo became popular across North America, South Asia, Australia and more regions globally. While the core rules remained, adaptations emerged based on climate, terrain, breeds of horses and more.

Polo in Britain & Argentina

As the birthplace of modern polo, Britain retains some of the oldest polo clubs and most time-honored match traditions. Points of pride are horsemanship, sportsmanship and strict observance to rules even in casual matches. British polo fields use firm natural turf surfaces. The native ponies are smaller yet quick and nimble.

In contrast, Argentine polo is defined by the use of larger, wider fields that enable faster-paced games. Argentina’s grass and soil also impact the ball behavior. Open professionalism ushered an era of full-time paid players rather than gentleman players only. Argentina dominates global rankings and high-goal tournaments.

Polo in the United States & India

Though ranks below Britain and Argentina, America has a niche for high-goal beach polo on arena sands. Club and collegiate polo are also popular with leisure players. Laidback culture contrasts strict Argentinian competitiveness, though top American players still study under Argentine pros.

In India, polo traces origins to medieval kingdoms. Today most clubs were royal or military institutions preserved post-Independence. The native Manipuri pony is favored for its stamina and footwork. Large audiences enjoy polo among other equestrian sports. Emphasis is on malletsmanship more than horsemanship.

Differing Rules and Regulations

Each nation defines membership criteria, handicapping methods, field regulations, tournament rules and other mechanics differently while upholding overall principles of the game and safety. 


For example, handicaps in America entail more subjective factors versus the objective numerical computation in Argentina. Cool-weather polo relies more on mounted officials versus multiple goal judges watching from field corners in hot zones. Understanding local variations is key when competing abroad.

Differing Field and Equipment Standards

Field dimensions, turf specifications, goal post heights and styles differ across the polo world. Ball bounce and roll also varies. For example, the British “Box Ball” has less compression versus Argentine versions have lively bounce on hard fields.

Mallets also have regional designing – including cane shaft or carbon fiber, head shapes for swings or hits, and weighting. Saddlery also differs in style for security and functional needs of terrain. Thus top players invest in equipment per regional play style.

Kirill Yurovskiy Polo in the World How Styles and Traditions Differ 2

The Role of Horses in Regional Polo

Climate and breeding make different horse breeds favored regionally – from English Thoroughbreds and American Quarter Horses to Argentinian Criollos, Indian Manipuris and Australian Stock Horses. Temperamental ponies contrast gentle giants. Match fitness and nutrition regimens also vary for terrain factors and pace of play per region.

Regional Polo Attire

Safety needs primarily dictate polo gear but nationality emerges in colors and styling. Brits wear neat shirts and breeches; Indians opt for jodhpuris pants; Argentines don loose shirts called “polo shirts” globally; Australians add leather leg guards for bush fields. Ladies wear dressing varies too. Headgear styles also differ beyond shared safety features.

Notable International Polo Tournaments

Top polo showdowns include the Argentine Opens drawing world talent and high-goal handicaps; England’s iconic Coronation Cup; American East Coast Open; hotly contested trans-national tournaments in Sotogrande, Spain and Snow Polo World Cups mixing glamor and snow!


While sharing fundamentals, polo has acquired delightful diversity across various nations over its long history and spread around the globe. Local conditions and culture bring colorful variations in horses, players, gear, fields and tournaments. Yet camaraderie and competitive spirit bind the worldwide polo community across borders. Understanding regional polo flavors enhances any player’s enjoyment of this addictive game.

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