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Medieval Sports

Apart from its clothing and weaponry, the medieval period is also known for the sports that were popular throughout the time. Interestingly, many of today’s sporting events may be traced back to the Medieval Period. Let’s get straight into learning about the amazing medieval sports, some of which have even stood the test of time and are now incorporated into sporting activities all around the world.

History Of Medieval Sports

History of Medieval Sports
History Of Medieval Sports, by Dedda71, is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Medieval sports and games emerged in an era dominated by war and melancholy, where people were struggling to cope with their gloomy life and needed a purpose. Post the fall of the Western Roman Empire, people in Europe faced tumultuous political wars and religious struggles. Europeans also encountered the rise of the feudal system, and situations for common people became very difficult.

The primary means of earning was to fight as a soldier or work as a peasant or serf. Sporting events were also the best places to showcase the strength and influence of knights and nobles. The events were held in conjunction with festivals, with people from across the land gathering to bear witness to such glorious occasions. 

Almost all sports in medieval times were designed to increase the fighting capacities of the people as soldiers. Additionally, lords of manors were expected to provide trained soldiers for kings that could be used in times of need against invaders, barbarians, and other enemies. Every knight needed to attain exceptional fighting skills and all techniques of war. As a result, the lords also improvised and encouraged sports that were designed to offer fighting and weapon practices. 

Popular Sports In Medieval Times

Some of the popular medieval sports and games played are:


Archery was considered a significant medieval sport during the medieval period, and it was not only considered a sport but an essential skill to be acquired by everyone by law. In the year 1252, The Medieval Archery Law was passed, which stated that every Englishman of the age between 15 and 60 years was required to equip himself with a bow and arrows. People during medieval times were specifically trained to perform archery in designated areas called Butts.

The Tournaments and Jousting

Tournaments and Jousts were considered major sporting events incorporating dangerous sports and games. Many players participating in these tournaments were killed while playing these dangerous medieval sports and games. The participant of such contests and jousts needed to attain Quintain and Pell Training.

Sporting Contests

A knight who demonstrated courage in combat or was successful at jousting in the tournaments would become wealthy by winning sports contests. His fortune would become so vast that he could afford a castle. His standing in the land would grow, and he may even join the nobility. A peasant who excelled in Medieval sports could win a prize in a sporting competition. Also, he would receive a strong reputation and higher value from his master, and his social standing would improve.

Other Popular Medieval Sports

Some other thrilling medieval sports and games are:

  • Colf: Colf was considered a sport for the nobles and is the ancestor of the game golf that is played today.
  •  Gameball: Gameball is much like present-day football.
  •  Hurling or Shinty: Hurling is similar to the present-day game of hockey.
  • Horseshoes: The purpose of this sport was to throw horseshoes at a target.
  •  Skittles: This was an ancestor of modern ten-pin bowling.
  • Stoolball: Stoolball was the medieval form of the game of Cricket played today.

What Sports Did Medieval Peasants Play

Medieval sports played by Medieval Peasants
Medieval Sports, by Peter Trimming, is licensed under ShareAlike 2.0

Aside from the nobles, the peasants also participated in various specialised medieval games and sports. Folk football, a wild game in which people of one village competed against members of other villages, was a popular pastime among them. Peasant women were also encouraged to participate in specific tournament games. During this time, they were free to participate in footraces and ball activities. Ladies of the nobility, on the other hand, used to hunt and were allowed to own falcons. Women from the middle class, on the other hand, were mostly bystanders. 

Medieval Sports Played By Nobles

Hunting was a favorite activity among the aristocrats, especially among the noblewomen. It was one of the few sports that they did in their leisure time. Hunting was a costly activity that frequently required the use of other animals, such as trained hounds and hawks. The dogs were employed to detect prey, which ended in the capture of foxes, rabbits, and other animals.

The rules controlling this activity were eased, and nobility frequently hunted within their domain. The nobles rode horses and used bows and arrows to hunt their prey. Hunting was a very rare pastime that was exclusively available to nobility at the time.


Medieval sports were not only amusing, but they also added colour to a very spiritual age marred by warlike conditions. With the support of these sports activities, medieval culture flourished and grew. Sports in medieval times benefitted modern civilization greatly, as most of the events and customs we know and do now can be traced back to that period.

Also, if interested, check out – Medieval Times Games, The Evolution of Medieval Tournaments

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