Tudor Games and Sports: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about games and sports enjoyed by people living in Tudor times. Not everyone in Tudor society was allowed to play the same games – some were reserved for the nobility and some were considered to be games of the poor and the lower classes.

  • Rich Tudors played bowls, skittles and tennis.

  • The Tudor version of tennis was played indoors with a leather ball stuffed with human hair. It was particularly enjoyed by the nobility and members of the royal family. Today the game is called ‘real tennis’.
  • Members of the lower classes played a version of football. It has very little in common with today’s football (soccer). In Tudor times an inflated pig’s bladder was used as a ball and the goals posts were often several miles apart from each other. There was no limit to the number of players and the ball could be thrown, kicked or carried. Players were allowed to tackle, punch and trip the opposition. As a result, football was a dangerous game in Tudor times and players were often injured and occasionally killed during matches. (Click here to find out more and watch a video clip).
  • People from both the nobility and lower classes enjoyed cock fights (in which two cockerels were forced to fight to the death) and bear-baiting, which involved watching a chained up bear fight off a pack of dogs.
  • The nobility also enjoyed attending and taking part in tournaments. The main event of a tournament was usually jousting. In the joust mounted knights tried to unhorse each other using a lance.
  • Many of the games and toys played with today were played in Tudor times. The Tudors enjoyed playing card and dice games, and they played a number of board games, such as chess, a version of backgammon called ‘Squares’, Fox and Geese (sometimes called Fox and Hound) and a version of draughts.
  • A form of billiards was played by rich Tudors – Mary Queen of Scots was apparently a big fan of this game.

Click here to visit the Primary Facts Tudor resources page.