How Lacrosse Was Invented? A Must-read History Guide!

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Do you want to delve into the mysterious history of lacrosse? Are you curious about where this beloved sport comes from and how lacrosse was invented?

Well, look no further! This must-read guide will reveal all the wonders behind the creation of lacrosse.

From its ancient tribal roots that date back hundreds of years ago to modern times when it became a highly competitive Olympic sport with strong roots around North America, let's explore together the story of this exciting game.


Take Away Key Points:

  • Lacrosse has greatly evolved from Native tribes to modern day
  • The main changes included the rules and standards 
  • With global popularity and recognition, it will become a major sport in the future

Lacrosse History

How old is lacrosse? How has lacrosse changed over time?

If you've ever wondered about these, and want to know how lacrosse started, read the guide below to know the evolution of lacrosse through the centuries.

Who and how invented lacrosse?

how long ago was lacrosse invented

Lacrosse was a game originally played by the Native American Indians. The game began originally as stickball. French settlers discovered traditional lacrosse games when a French missionary witnessed Huron Indians playing the game first.

Jean de Brébeuf, a French missionary, named it in 1630 after the French word for the stick - la crosse. However, he also might have derived it from the French word for field hockey - le jeu de la crosse.

Other names included a crosier, men hit a rounded object, the little brother of war, and similar names, as the Native American Indians used a netted racquet to hit the ball. French colonists easily differentiated lacrosse from other team sports such as shiny or team hockey.

The Native American Indian lacrosse originates from the religious ceremonies of Native tribes who saw it as a tool for religious reasons to celebrate the Creator, develop the endurance and strength of the male population, settle disputes, heal sick people, and resolve wars and other territorial disputes.

Native Americans held multiple huge events, including the lacrosse game. Lacrosse games took place in large areas. Historians believe that the number of team players stretched between 100 and 1,000.

The first lacrosse rules

As lacrosse was a collective game played by Native Americans in huge areas between villages, the goals ranged from 500 yards to six miles long. The main rule was that the Native American Indians playing the game could not touch the ball with their hands. Except for this rule, the ball game didn't have any other critical rules, and North American Indians were out of bounds.

Native Americans mainly used rocks and trees to mark the goals, but in later years these were wooden posts. The start of the lacrosse game was marked by tossing the ball in the air. Lacrosse players would rush to catch it first.

The first lacrosse ball was not of a standard size. It ranged between softball and tennis ball. Various sources indicate that the first lacrosse balls included deer hides filled with animal hair. Still, some Indian tribes used wooden balls for the games.

The game used to be very violent, causing severe injuries and even death in some cases due to a huge number of players participating in the games.

The first lacrosse players

Players were traditionally involved in rituals before the game. They would collectively pray and participate in rituals to celebrate the Creator. Their bodies and faces were decorated with paints, but the same rule applied to the stick racks.

The shaman, who was also a medicine man, played a critical role in preparing the rituals and dancing the night before the games to strengthen the young warriors and other "skull crackers" to perform well. He used the comb-like object of the turkey leg bone to scratch the players' bodies. In addition, he inflicted wounds with the comb until blood fell down the opponents' elbows.

Settling arguments was one of the primary purposes of playing the sport. In the early days, the sport was the main tool for diplomacy. This way, the North American Indians cultivated political fellowships and resolved conflicts. The tribes would find a suitable day for the sports games, and the winner would propose negotiations.

As a popular sport back in the day, Lacrosse followed the traditional elements and set strong foundations for stability within the community. Various tribes created different myths and legends of the first ball game played by the gods. The ball symbolized the sun and moon moving across the sky in such stories.

The conflict with European settlers

In 1763 Ojibway and Sauk people planned to recapture Fort Michilimackinac from the British, who were at war with France. The Natives wanted to organize a lacrosse game to distract British soldiers. They preferred French trading practices more than English trading types.

For this reason, the tribes set the date on the king's birthday, as the British soldiers were not to be on duty. When the game of lacrosse started, the players from both teams used the weapons from the women spectating the game, attacked the British soldiers, and recaptured the fort. This historical event is known as the day when lacrosse defeated the empire.

The further development of modern lacrosse rules

Lacrosse has significantly changed since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when the Natives first played it. Many new rules were proposed. The main idea was to have fun and enjoy recreational competitions with friends. The main responsible for the changes leading to modern-day lacrosse is William George Beers.

Montreal lacrosse club & William George Beers

Beers was a young Canadian dentist who was the father of modern-day lacrosse. In September 1860, Beers put much effort into providing new rules and instructions for lacrosse. Until then, the game did not have written rules. Moreover, Beers decided to replace the deerskin ball with a hard rubber ball.

In the mid-1800s, Beers founded the Montreal Lacrosse Club and changed the regulations of field lacrosse. The size of the lacrosse field today is only 100 yards instead of a miles-long one. The goals are standard, 6x6 feet in size, and no longer made of rocks and wood.

Additionally, the number of players is set to ten for each team instead of hundreds. However, sometimes there can be six players, depending on the lacrosse type. Over the last ten years, the sport of lacrosse has seen a significant increase in players in the USA and Canada, especially players who are fifteen years old and younger. As a result, Lacrosse is nowadays a national sport in Canada.

The protective equipment used in men's lacrosse also witnessed some significant modifications. While Native tribes didn't wear any pads, modern players wear them on their arms and shoulders.

Helmets and mouthguards are also mandatory. Sticks were made of wood in the past, but today they contain various metals, including scandium and aluminum.

The heads of lacrosse sticks also developed. They were also a part of the entire stick made of wood, and some versions included heads two-thirds of the stick. Nowadays, heads have plastic molded into various shapes for better handling.

Finally, today's audience can watch lacrosse at stadiums, while in the past, the game took place in the St. Lawrence valley area, around the Western Great Lakes, and in the eastern half of North America.

Lacrosse as a modern sport

lacrosse where did it originate

The first modern-day lacrosse version was played in England in 1867 when sixteen players, including Captain W.B. Johnson, attended an exhibition game in Fulham. Most players were Native Americans from the Iroquois nation. But other nations were part of the team as well.

However, lacrosse is nowadays a Canadian national sport. During the Confederation period, cricket was the most popular sport on the continent, but Beers proposed it to be the national one. And nowadays, it is a national sport along with ice hockey.

In addition, the sport includes various NCAA tournaments and world championships. It was also part of the Olympic Games in 1904 and 1908, but as an exhibition sport in 1928, 1932, and 1948. However, the officials attempt to return it to the Olympiad in 2028 and return it to the throne.

Major League Lacrosse

The MLL was the main governing body of men's field lacrosse, established in 2001. However, the popularity was not so widespread, and the players didn't have high salaries.

Paul Rabil, the best lacrosse player of all time, tried to purchase the organization to improve the conditions, but eventually, he founded the Premier Lacrosse League with his brother in 2018. Eventually, the MLL merged with the PLL in 2021, and today the organization is known only as the PLL. This is because the players have better conditions in the later association.

Global popularity today

Apart from Canada and US lacrosse, the game is today popular globally as well. The game of lacrosse is widely recognized in Australia, Germany, Japan, South Korea, France, England, Ireland, Czech, Wales, Sweden, etc.

Women's lacrosse

The first women's lacrosse game was organized in Scotland in the last decade of the nineteenth century. Before that, there was an attempt to form women's lacrosse in Virginia in 1914. However, it was not successful. Finally, Rosabelle Sinclair formed the first women's lacrosse team in the USA at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Maryland.

Women played Lacrosse in Victoria, Australia, in 1936. However, due to specific inconveniences, the Australian Women's Lacrosse Council was formed in 1962.

The same rules tackled both sports variants - women's and men's games, without protective equipment, until the 1930s. From then on, the men's game evolved quickly while women followed the original rules.

The Canadian version of the game

Box lacrosse was created in the 1930s in Canada. This is the indoor version of the game. The fast-paced game is played on an indoor ice rink with the ice removed or covered.

Box lacrosse includes six players - five runners and a goalie. Also, the rules differ from the field version, and it's more aggressive, as more contact between the players is allowed. Nowadays, various field players also switch to indoor games, as they can practice their performance during the off-season.

Aztec lacrosse history

who invented box lacrosse

The Aztec people of Mesoamerica are known historically for their vibrant culture, evidenced by their profound love of the game of lacrosse. Known as tlachtli, or "ball game", this early version of lacrosse dates back to 500 AD and is even depicted in various ancient artworks.

It was an extremely physical endeavor, with two teams typically composed of anywhere from between two to ten players that were armed with rubber balls and had goals set up at each end of a large court. The court, usually about 100 and 250 feet long, featured six various markers where different points could be earned.

The equipment consisted of two long sticks with a pocket used to catch and throw the rubber ball. In short, Tlachtli is considered to be a significant ancestor in the development of modern lacrosse, providing a glimpse into a classic sport that captivated fans centuries ago.


Who is the founder of lacrosse?

The Haudenosaunee people invented lacrosse first in 1100 AD.

How was lacrosse first played?

It was played with a stick with a hooked or bent head and a deerskin ball.

Did lacrosse start with human heads?

Yes, Natives used enemies' heads, stones, clay, deerskin, etc., to make balls.

Do Native Americans still play lacrosse?

Yes, Native Americans still play lacrosse and even have their Iroquois Nationals.

Is lacrosse the oldest sport in the world?

No, wrestling is the oldest sport in the world, as cave paintings in France show.

What are the top 3 oldest sports?

Top 3 oldest sports include: running, wrestling, long jump.

Will lacrosse ever become a major sport?

Yes, due to its rapidly increasing popularity, lacrosse will likely become a major sport in the USA.


From early Native American games to today's competitive collegiate and professional leagues, lacrosse has evolved substantially into its current form.

The combination of fast-paced action, a collaboration between teams, and inherent competitiveness make the sport an excellent choice for all recreational and competitive players.

Although different variations have come and gone throughout history, the fundamental elements remain intact.

Freddy Woods

Freddy is the heart and soul of Lacrosse Runner. As a former athlete, Freddy is very passionate about Lacrosse. He keeps up with the sport's changes and innovations and often tests the new equipment released by the leading manufacturers. Read more here