The Fascinating Origins Of Modern Horse Racing

Horse racing is considered by many historians to be one of the very oldest forms of competitive sports in the world, if not the oldest. While there’s no way of really tracing just when our ancestors began to race horses, it’s generally believed to have started thousands of years ago.

It’s also one of the few sports that has virtually remained unchanged in all that time – while horse racing competitions have become international events boasting some of the latest broadcasting technologies, the premise behind the race itself is the same now as it was when the very first race in history took place. Here we will explore horse racing and its origins.

How It All Started

There are no written records of the sport before ancient Greece, where the earliest events consisted of both bareback racing and competitions between horse drawn chariots. The Greeks were famed for hosting competitive sporting events, such as the Olympics, so it makes sense that the racing of horses would be popular among the people. But these are just the races that we’re aware of, and it’s agreed upon that races took place long before this, as humans have been riding horses for thousands of years.

The ancient Romans, too, loved to race against one another, and it’s a pastime that spread quickly around the world into regions like China, Arabia, and Northern Africa. It was during this period where the Arabian horse was first encountered, which proved to be a faster breed that was perfect for racing.

Medieval England

Racing took place in Medieval Britain, but these were done to show prospective buyers just how fast a horse was before they made a purchase. The first official race ever recorded during this period was between 1189 and 1199, and saw a group of knights racing against each other with the hope of winning a full purse worth 40 pounds. By the time the 17th century had come around, racing horses has become something of a favourite hobby of the rich and powerful, and especially of the monarchy, who were known for importing the animals from around the world to be part of their royal studs.

This also proved to be the period where it began as a more legitimate sport, with Charles II being the first monarch to initiate the King’s Plates, an royal event that saw participants taking part in heats in order to win.

Modern Racing

The sport evolved from there, undergoing a series of rule changes which ranged from the length of the courses, the types of races performed, as well as the breeds of horses used. By the turn of the 19th century when the Industrial Revolution had forever changed Britain, the upper class began to use horse racing as a way of spending the vast amounts of money that they were now earning and a way of spinning the wheels of luck. From there, it became more popular among the common people, and would eventually turn into the sport that we know and love today.


About Doreen Cohen