History of Medieval Sports: Archery, ‘Colf,’ and Skittles

Sports have been around as long as people have been alive, but the most peculiar era of games takes place in the dark ages.

History of Medieval Sports: Archery, 'Colf,' and Skittles

Eran Bagwell, Contributor

The Medieval era was no time of good fortune; it was dark and gloomy. Citizens of the lower classes began having sporting events as a way of entertainment, “Outdoor games that gained traction among the lower echelons of society gradually evolved into royally sanctioned games or noble pastimes just as military drills and training, including archery, horseback and sword-fighting, branched out into various types of sports.” (medievalchronicals.com) The Royal families ran along with these sports as a past time.

One thing about these tournaments: they were often times deadly “due to vague rules, many Medieval sports took on deadly proportions. Not only were they physically demanding but there was little to zero emphasis on safety” (medievalchronicals.com). Fear and adrenaline can bring euphoria and brought happiness and excitement to this time, which made games and competitions so appealing to the general public.

Arguably the most popular sport of that time was archery. Archery was an extremely important war tool and even killed almost 200 French Knights in a 1346 battle, because of this archery was made a required sport: “Lower Class men were required to practice archery by law! The first Medieval Archery Law was passed in 1252 when all Englishmen between the age of 15 to 60 years old were ordered, by law, to equip themselves with a bow and arrows. The areas designated for archery training were called the Butts” (medievallifeandtimes.info). This allowed all men to be trained in a sport that they could attend competitions for.

Many sports we have now are traced back to medieval times, including ‘Colf’ which was the medieval version of modern day golf; football runs back to a game called ‘Game Ball,’ and we can blame bowling on a good ole fashion game called “skittles.” The most enjoyable part about the evolution of these games are the safety measures, no more crushed skulls or losing legs!