Ancient African Sports

The ancient Africans enjoyed many sports both similar to modern ones and unique. Some were practiced all around the continent, but most were local to specific tribes.

Not everyone was allowed to participate. Most people had to meet certain requirements. They had to be adult men, usually over 12 years old, and be of certain professions. Some tribes that played sports were:

  • The Berbers
  • The Nguni
  • The Hausa
  • The Senegalese
  • The Betsileo
  • The Maasai
  • The Xhosa
  • The Yoruba

Boxing

Boxing proved to be an exceptionally popular sport among many tribes. It was seen as a way for warriors and young men to prove their strength and toughness.

Women were often banned from boxing in many tribes because they were seen as weaker than men. In most tribes, they couldn’t even box other women.

Boxing

One well-known form of this sport was called Dambe boxing. In this sport, members of the Hausa tribe in northern Nigeria would meet after the harvest.

Men of the butcher social class would fight to entertain people at the festival. Each participant in the boxing match would wrap and tie their dominant hand with rope.

This formed protection similar to a modern boxing glove.When Dambe boxing, the men needed to strike their opponent.

If they managed to knock their opponent down, this action was called ‘killing’ and meant victory for the standing butcher.

Wrestling

Wrestling was another popular sport among the young men in many tribes. It was another way for warriors to demonstrate their skills.

Some tribes made men wrestle naked to ensure opponents wouldn’t grab each other’s clothing.

Grabbing hair and genitalia was considered unsportsmanlike. In wrestling, men could not hit each other. Instead, they grabbed and grappled, trying to pin their opponent.

Wrestling

Wrestling continues to be played by the Senegalese, who have developed a form of the sport called “Laamb.” The sport dates back thousands of years.

Ta Kurt Om El Mahag

This is one of the most ancient sports in known human history. Archaeologists believe it developed in North Africa and then spread to the ancient peoples of Europe.

It was played by members of the Berber tribe. In the game, players would attempt to bat a ball made of rock and animal leather with a large, fortified stick. As one might guess, this sport is often compared to baseball.

Bull Riding

The ancient Africans possessed a sport similar to modern bull riding. The greatest practitioners were members of the Betsileo tribe in Madagascar.

In the sport, which is practiced today, the tribe would release a Brahman cow. This cow has large horns. Grown men would then try to grab and ride the cow like they were in a rodeo.

Bull Riding

The tribe made sure the bull was as angry as possible. This sport was often done for entertainment.

Donkey Racing

Donkey racing was and continues to be popular in Kenya. Tribes would rear and raise prized donkeys that were strong and fast.

Small, light men from the upper classes within the tribe would be chosen as riders and then race across a chosen course.

To be a donkey rider, a man needed to be strong and fast but also weigh very little so he didn’t hurt the donkey.

Winning animals were honored and considered valuable possessions. Some people compare it to the current donkey racing of today, as well as modern horse racing.

Questions

  • Who could play ancient African sports?
    Men older than 12 years old of certain higher classes.
  • Which tribe practiced Dambe boxing?
    The Hausa of Nigeria.
  • What did ancient African wrestlers wear?
    Nothing or minimal clothes like loincloths.
  • Which tribe had a sport similar to bull riding?
    The Betsileo of Madagascar.
  • In which country did donkey racing originate?
  • Which ancient African sport is similar to baseball?
    Ta Kurt Om El Mahag