Polo is a game that originated in Persia and over the centuries spread throughout Asia. It was discovered in the mountainous areas of northern India by British army officers during the 19th century and was organized in its modern form. It is now played chiefly in ranching areas and in countries where the traditions of wealthy horsemen prevail. An international handicap system gives each player a rating for purposes of competition.
Polo was first played in Canada in 1878 by British garrison officers stationed in Halifax. The game was more widely played in western Canada, however, and by 1889 weekly matches were organized in Victoria between garrison teams and British naval officers. Alberta was a centre of polo activity, with the North-West Mounted Police providing much of the initiative for organization. Clubs were formed in Calgary and High River in the 1890s, and by the turn of the century in Toronto and Montréal.
The first national Canadian polo tournament was held in Toronto in 1903. In 1905, the High River team won both the Canadian and American championships. Between the world wars, Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops, BC, and Calgary were strongholds of polo in the West, and Montréal the leading city in the East. But after WWII, the sport almost died out entirely. In the early 1950s it was revived in Vancouver, Victoria and Calgary; and in the 1960s clubs in southern Alberta banded together to form the Calgary Polo Club, now the strongest polo organization in Canada. Competition in the West is usually with teams from the US.
In Toronto, polo was revived in 1958, and that city has become a strong year-round polo centre. A very successful club also exists in Montréal, and other clubs are scattered across the country. Canadians have competed successfully around the world, from the high-school level through to university ranks and the professional world.