Greetings, field sports aficionados!
Are you prepared to explore the great outdoors?
Get ready to venture into our field sports list, sorted by popularity.
From skilled archers to eager newcomers, there’s an activity here to suit every taste and level of experience!
Field Sports List
- Horse Racing
- Mountain Biking
- Cross Country Running
- Sport Fishing (Angling)
- Trail Running
Table of Contents
Hiking, the activity of walking long distances through natural environments, has been practiced since ancient times for purposes such as trade, pilgrimage, and exploration.
It gained popularity as a recreational activity in the 18th century in Europe, particularly in England’s Lake District.
Today, hiking is enjoyed worldwide with popular routes in places such as the Appalachian Trail in the United States, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and the Himalayas in Nepal. While not an Olympic sport, many hiking challenges and events are organized worldwide.
#2 Horse Racing
Horse racing, an equestrian sport involving racing horses, dates back to ancient civilizations, including Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. The sport is now popular in countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.
Prestigious races include the Kentucky Derby, the Grand National, and the Melbourne Cup. While modern horse racing is not part of the Olympic Games, equestrian sports, such as dressage and show jumping, have been Olympic events since 1912.
Camping, an outdoor activity that involves sleeping outside in tents, has its origins in 19th century Europe when it emerged as a recreational activity for adventurous travelers.
Today, camping is popular worldwide as a leisure activity, enjoyed in natural settings like forests, mountains, and national parks. While not a competitive sport, camping events and festivals are arranged globally, with an emphasis on enjoying the great outdoors and connecting with nature.
Canoeing, a sport that involves paddling a small boat called a canoe using a single-bladed paddle, originated among Native Americans thousands of years ago for transportation and hunting.
Today, recreational and competitive canoeing is popular on calm lakes, rivers, and coastal areas. Canoeing has been part of the Olympic Games since the 1936 Berlin Games, with both sprint and slalom events.
Similar to canoeing, kayaking involves participants propelling themselves in a small, narrow boat known as a kayak using a double-bladed paddle. The modern kayaking sport has its origins in the early 20th century, when it was introduced in Europe.
Today, kayaking is popular in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas with various forms, including whitewater, sea, and recreational kayaking. It has been an Olympic sport since 1936, with both sprint and slalom events.
#6 Mountain Biking
Mountain biking, an off-road cycling sport, originated in the 1970s in California. Its popularity soared in the 1980s and spread worldwide. The sport encompasses different categories, such as cross-country, downhill, and freeride.
Mountain biking is now popular globally, with trail networks and dedicated parks available in many countries. Mountain biking became an Olympic sport in 1996, with the introduction of cross-country events for men and women.
#7 Cross Country Running
Cross country running, a sport that involves long-distance races on natural terrain, has its roots in 19th-century England. Early races were known as “hare and hounds” or “paper chases,” with participants following a marked trail.
Today, cross country running is popular globally, with events taking place in various countries, including the annual IAAF World Cross Country Championships. Although not part of the current Olympic program, cross country running was featured in the Olympics between 1912 and 1924.
#8 Sport Fishing (Angling)
Sport fishing, or angling, is a recreational activity where participants use rods, reels, and hooks to catch fish. Angling has been practiced for centuries, with its origins traced back to ancient Egypt.
Today, sport fishing is popular worldwide in various water bodies, including oceans, lakes, and rivers. Competitive angling events and tournaments, such as the Bassmaster Classic and the World Predator Classic, are held globally. Angling is not an Olympic sport.
Backpacking, a form of low-cost, independent travel that involves carrying all necessary belongings in a backpack, has become increasingly popular in recent decades.
The concept originated in the 1960s and 1970s in Europe, with the emergence of budget travel options. Backpacking is popular worldwide, with travelers exploring different countries and experiencing their cultures, landscapes, and attractions.
While not a competitive sport, backpacking challenges and events, such as long-distance trekking adventures, are organized globally.
#10 Trail Running
Trail running, a sport that involves running and hiking over nature trails, gained popularity in the late 20th century in North America and Europe. As an offshoot of road running and cross country running, trail running offers the opportunity to experience diverse terrains and natural environments.
Trail running is popular worldwide, with events such as the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and the Western States 100 taking place in various countries. Trail running is not an Olympic sport, but it has a dedicated global community.
More Field Sports
- Polo: Polo, an equestrian sport played on horseback, has its origins in ancient Persia over 2,500 years ago. It is popular in countries such as Argentina, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Notable tournaments include the Argentine Open, the US Open Polo Championship, and the Cartier Queen’s Cup. Polo was an Olympic sport from 1900 to 1936 but has not been featured in the modern Olympic Games.
- Show Jumping: Show jumping, an equestrian discipline where horses and riders jump over a series of obstacles, started in 19th-century England. Today, it is popular worldwide, particularly in Europe and North America. Prestigious competitions include the FEI World Equestrian Games and the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Show jumping has been part of the Olympic Games since 1912.
- Dressage: Dressage, an equestrian sport dating back to ancient Greece’s calvary exercises, emphasizes the horse and rider’s harmonious movement. Dressage gained popularity in Europe, and now it is practiced worldwide. Renowned competitions include the FEI World Equestrian Games and World Cup Dressage Finals. Dressage has been an Olympic sport since 1912.
- Paddling: Paddling is a general term that encompasses canoeing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. These sports have various origins, with canoeing dating back thousands of years to Native American tribes, while kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding have more recent histories. Today, paddling sports are popular globally, with competitions such as the Olympic Games and World Championships for canoeing and kayaking.
- Rowing/Sculling: Rowing, a sport where participants propel a boat using oars, traces its origins to ancient Egypt and Rome. Competitive rowing gained popularity in 19th-century England. Rowing is now popular worldwide on rivers, lakes, and coastal areas, with various boat types and competitions. It has been an Olympic sport since the 1900 Paris Games, with the International Rowing Federation (FISA) overseeing the sport.
- Rafting: Rafting, a thrilling sport where participants navigate a raft through rough waters, gained popularity in the mid-20th century. It is popular in regions with fast-flowing rivers, such as the Colorado River in the USA and the Zambezi River in Africa. Rafting is not an Olympic sport; however, the International Rafting Federation (IRF) organizes the Rafting World Championships.
- Clay Pigeon Shooting: Clay pigeon shooting, a sport involving shooting flying clay targets, has its roots in 19th-century England when live-pigeon shooting competitions transitioned to using artificial targets. The sport is popular in Europe, the United States, and various countries worldwide. The International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) oversees clay target shooting, and it has been an Olympic sport since 1900.
- Rock Climbing: Rock climbing, an activity that originated as a component of mountaineering in the 19th century, gained popularity as a standalone sport in the 20th century. Indoor climbing gyms and the advent of sport climbing elevated its global recognition. Notable climbing events include the IFSC Climbing World Championships. Rock climbing, specifically sport climbing, made its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- Punting: Punting, a leisure activity where a flat-bottomed boat is propelled by pushing a pole against the riverbed, originated in the early 19th century on the River Thames in England. Now, punting is popular in UK cities like Cambridge and Oxford and some European cities like Venice. Punting is not a competitive sport, but it is a popular recreational activity for tourists and locals.
- Field Shooting (Metallic Silhouette): Metallic silhouette shooting, a shooting discipline that originated in Mexico in the early 20th century, involves firing at metal animal-shaped targets. The sport is popular in North America and Europe and is overseen by organizations such as the International Metallic Silhouette Shooting Union (IMSSU). Field shooting in metallic silhouette is not part of the Olympic program.
- Sport Fishing (Spearfishing): Spearfishing, an ancient method of fishing using a spear or speargun, dates back to prehistoric times. Today, spearfishing is a popular recreational activity globally, especially in coastal regions like the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Competitive spearfishing events exist, such as the World Freshwater Spearfishing Championship. Spearfishing is not an Olympic sport.
- Field Shooting (Long-Range): Long-range shooting, a competitive sport that involves firing at targets at great distances, has its roots in 19th-century military marksmanship. Presently, long-range shooting is popular in countries like the United States and South Africa, with competitions such as the Precision Rifle Series (PRS) and the King of 2 Miles. Long-range shooting is not an Olympic sport.
- Field Shooting (Field Target): Field target shooting, an air rifle discipline, originated in the United Kingdom in the 1980s. It involves shooting at metal silhouette targets usually shaped like small game animals. The sport gained popularity across Europe and in the United States. Major competitions include the World Field Target Championships. Field target shooting is not part of the Olympic program.
- Scrambling: Scrambling is a form of mountaineering on steep, rocky terrain that lies midway between hiking and rock climbing. It involves navigating rough surfaces and small cliffs without the use of specialized climbing gear. Scrambling has its origins in traditional mountaineering and serves as a gateway to more advanced climbing styles. It is a popular activity in mountainous regions worldwide, with no Olympic events or competitive championships.
- Canyoning: Canyoning, an adventurous outdoor activity that involves navigating through canyons and watercourses using a variety of techniques like climbing, rappelling, and swimming, originated in the early 20th century. Canyoning is popular in scenic regions with spectacular canyons, such as the Grand Canyon in the United States, the Verdon Gorge in France, and the Blue Mountains in Australia. While canyoning is not an Olympic sport or competitive event, numerous guided tours and canyoning adventures are offered in various countries.
- Caving: Caving, or spelunking, is the exploration of natural caves and underground systems. It has existed for centuries, initially for mining and spiritual purposes, but developed into a recreational pursuit in the 19th and 20th centuries. Caving is popular worldwide, with famous cave systems like Mammoth Cave in the United States, the Gouffre Berger in France, and the Krubera Cave in Georgia. Caving is not a competitive sport, but various clubs and organizations promote caving activities and environmental conservation.
- Paddleboarding: Paddleboarding, which consists of standing on a large, stable board and propelling oneself using a long paddle, has its roots in ancient Polynesian culture. It gained modern popularity in Hawaii in the early 2000s and is now popular in coastal areas, lakes, and rivers worldwide. Paddleboarding competitions, like the SUP World Championship, exist, but the sport is not part of the Olympic program.
- Sport Hunting (Safari/Big Game Hunting): Safari hunting and big-game hunting, a form of recreational hunting for large animals such as lions, elephants, and buffaloes, originated in the 19th century, mainly in Africa. Although controversial, such hunting still occurs in some African countries, as well as North America. Sport hunting is not an Olympic sport or a competitive event, and it faces increasing restrictions and conservation issues.
- Sport Hunting (Fowling): Fowling, a form of hunting that targets fowl or birds, dates back to prehistoric times as a food source. It has evolved into a recreational activity, with enthusiasts using shotguns or falconry to hunt various bird species. Fowling is popular in many countries and not part of the Olympic program. Organizations and clubs promote responsible and sustainable hunting practices.
- Bowhunting: Bowhunting, an ancient form of hunting using bows and arrows, has been practiced for thousands of years. Today, it remains a popular recreational activity in countries like the United States, South Africa, and Australia. Bowhunting competitions, such as the International Bowhunting Organization’s World Championship, are held globally. Bowhunting is not an Olympic sport, but target archery has been part of the Olympic Games since 1900.
- Field Archery: Field archery, a form of archery that involves shooting arrows at targets set at varying distances in wooded or open terrain, originated in the early 20th century. It is popular in Europe and North America. Competitions include the World Archery Field Championships and the European Field Archery Championships. Field archery is not an Olympic sport, but target archery has been part of the Olympics since 1900.
- Tree Climbing: Tree climbing, which involves climbing trees using ropes, harnesses, and other specialized equipment, has ancient origins as a means of resource gathering and observation. It is now a popular recreational activity worldwide and is practiced by arborists, researchers, and outdoor enthusiasts. Tree climbing is not an Olympic sport or a competitive event, but organizations like the International Tree Climbing Championship promote safe climbing techniques and skills.
- Falconry: Falconry, an ancient sport where trained birds of prey are used to hunt wild game, dates back over 4,000 years ago to Mesopotamia and Persia. Falconry is still practiced today in countries like the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Notable events include the International Festival of Falconry and the Abu Dhabi Falconry Competition. Falconry is not part of the Olympic program.
- Plinking: Plinking, a recreational form of shooting where participants fire at a variety of informal targets such as tin cans and bottles, is popular in countries with a strong shooting culture, like the United States. Plinking is typically practiced with small-caliber firearms and airguns. Although it is not a competitive sport or part of the Olympic program, plinking is a popular way for shooters to develop marksmanship skills.
- Meat Shooting: Meat shooting, a form of competitive target shooting where prizes consist of meat cuts, is a popular social event in rural communities, particularly in the United States and Canada. Meat shooting competitions typically involve shotguns and clay pigeons. Although meat shooting is not part of the Olympic program, shooting sports, in general, have been Olympic events since 1896.
- Rook Shooting: Rook shooting, a traditional form of small-game hunting involving shooting rooks (a type of crow), dates back to the 19th century in the United Kingdom. Rook shooting was once a popular countryside pursuit but has declined in recent years due to wildlife conservation efforts and changing social attitudes. Rook shooting is not an Olympic sport or a competitive event.
What are the most popular field sports?
The most popular field sports include hiking, horse racing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking, cross country running, sport fishing (angling), backpacking, and trail running.
How many different field sports are there?
Our field sports list includes 36 unique field sports.