The world is home to 195 countries (and counting—South Sudan is the most recent, having been recognized since 2011). There are plenty of things that keep these nations separate. But let’s focus on the things we do have in common. With the possible exception of national animals, a love of sports might be the thing that most brings people together.
You may know America’s national pastime (baseball). But the U.S. isn’t the only country with a national sport. You may wonder what is the national sport of India, Argentina, Turks and Caicos, along with the other countries around the world with either an official (as declared by law) or unofficial (based solely on popular opinion) national sport. Several countries even share the same sports, such as cricket, which is popular in the Caribbean. So let’s jump into this key part of each nation’s culture.
The map below depicts the national sports of the world, which can be sorted by sport, type (official or unofficial), and year defined, among other things.
View National Sports of Every Country in a full screen map
There are two types of national sports. De jure are those declared by law while de facto sports are unofficial—yet often the most popular sport in each country. There are far fewer legislated national sports, so let’s look at those first. Here are the 12 countries with a de jure national sport (or two!).
- Argentina – Pato
- Canada – Ice hockey
- Canada – Lacrosse
- Chile – Rodeo
- Colombia – Tejo
- India – *None
- Mexico – Charrería
- Nepal – Volleyball
- Philippines – Arnis
- Puerto Rico – Paso Fino horse riding
- South Korea – Taekwondo
- Uruguay – Destrezas Criollas (Creole or gaucho Skills)
Most sports fans know of ice hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, horse riding, and Taekwondo. Some may have even been to a rodeo or two. But several of the de jure national sports may be unfamiliar.
Colombia’s tejo involves throwing metal discs (called tejos) at targets containing gunpowder, which explode on impact. The Philippines’s arnis is a form of martial arts, like the national sport of South Korea: Taekwondo.
Of course, the answer to what is the national game of India may surprise you: none. While hockey is commonly thought to be India’s national sport, in January 2020, the government refused to declare an Indian national sport. But what India is missing, Canada makes up for with their two official sports, a summer and winter version.
Perhaps most interesting is the number of national sports—de jure and de facto—that involve horses.
Many of the 77 countries’ official or unofficial sports revolve around horse riding. Let’s check out the de jure national sports.
Pato in Argentina is a mix of polo and basketball—while on horseback. Charrería, the national sport of Mexico, is similar to a rodeo, Chile’s de jure sport. Uruguay’s Destrezas Criollas (which is also popular in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and southern parts of Brazil and Chile) also involves horses: a rider must stay on an untamed horse for 8-14 seconds. And in Puerto Rico, they ride Paso Fino horses for sport. National sports involving horses are common. Let’s see some other common national sports.
Of the world’s 77 national sports, just 49 are unique. This means quite a few countries share their official pastime, as displayed on the table below.
|Sport||# of Countries||Countries|
|Cricket||9||Antigua and Barbuda
Turks and Caicos Islands
The #1 most common national sport is cricket. While you may associate it with England (and it is the national sport there), cricket is most popular in the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica—along with nearby Turks and Caicos and Bermuda. Note: it’s an unofficial national sport in all the countries.
Much like cricket, baseball is merely the de facto national sport of six countries. If you’re into American baseball, check out our Map of World Series Winners and Losers or Baseball Hall of Famers from 40 States, Nine Countries.
As for rugby, there are two variants as national sports: rugby union and rugby league. Let’s see them all at once on the map.
Five countries call rugby union their national sport, while just one is represented by the rugby league variant (Papua New Guinea). Additionally, while not the national sport, you’ll find the league version is also popular in Tonga. By selecting both the Rugby league and Rugby union groups, both will appear on the map—filtering out the rest we don’t want to focus on.
To discover where some of these sports are played, don’t miss 500 Largest Stadiums in the World.