Chogan has been popular among the kings and Iranian grandee in the past and its name as an aristocratic sport is derived from that. Chogan, known also as polo, is a sporting team game with horses and a version of the modern polo game. It was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2017. For the first time, Chogan was played during Achaemenians in Iran. As Achaemenians extended their borders to far and vast geographical spots, this ancient Iranian game found its way to other countries too. Chogan as one of the amusing activities between kings, rulers and wealthy people.
Kar Namag Ardashir Pabakan, is a middle Persian prose tale written in Sassanid Era. It narrates the story of Ardeshir I, the founder of this dynasty. It’s the first written document that mentions Chogan as an Iranian game. The theme of Chogan has been used widely in different areas of art and literature. For example, it’s been mentioned in the poems of Ferdowsi, Rudaki, Nezami, Sa’di, Hafez, and other great Persian poets. It has been also the theme in many valuable Persian miniatures and the designs on the potteries.
Chogan was played differently back then. Horse riding was more of a military and warfare practice. Therefore, this entertainment included horses’ military style marching and riding war horses. As the time went by, Chogan changed to the present day style. Polo firstly just had a recreational function in order to show the Iranian military horses talent. Chogan is a strategic game that requires physical readiness and skill for both riders and horses, just like a miniature battle. In the past, it was a play where the Persian riders exhibited their skills in riding, fighting, and playing as well as the fighting skills, speed, and agility of their horses. The horses of Chogan are called polo ponies. Since horse riding was a military practice in the past, Persians believed the horse that can do well in Chogan, can do well in the war too.
Today, in Chogan, ponies are full sized horses used for this traditional Iranian game. In Persian, they are referred to simply as Chogan horses. They should be equipped with safety gears to be ready for the races. They are supposed to have special leg wraps to be protected against the mallets. The line attached to the curb bit must be adjusted in a comfortable and free, so that ponies can be easily levered.