Friday, April 8, 2011

Obscure Sport Day: Ulama

The sport of Ulama, played in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, is the oldest, continuously played sport using a rubber ball.  Ulama traces its roots back to the ancient ballgame sport and ritual played by the Olmec.  "Olmec" loosely translates to "the rubber people'" referring to the technology they developed for making balls used in the ballgame.  One of the earliest ballgame courts is found at Paso de la Amada.  About 20 of the balls used in the game have been found near the Olmec site of San Lorenzo.
Rubber Ball found at El Manatí
How was the ancient ballgame played?  That is unclear.  Perhaps we can use the modern example of Ulama as a clue.  The objective is to keep the ball in play.  You strike the ball with your hips (although there are variations where you use your arms).  The scoring is rather complex, but the simple story is that the first to eight wins.  A game can last as long as eight days or as short as a few minutes.


  1. I suppose the ancient sport of "Kitten Ball" is not exotic enough to qualify as a "ball" sport considering live kittens were used.

  2. They did play "Skull Ball" ... metaphorically.