|12 players per side, 9 in the field and 3 extra
|None (except the two poles on the court)
|Country or region
Kho kho is a traditional Indian sport that dates back to ancient India. It is the second-most popular traditional tag game in the Indian subcontinent after kabaddi. Kho kho is played on a rectangular court with a central lane connecting two poles which are at either end of the court. During the game, nine players from the chasing team (attacking team) are on the field, with eight of them sitting (crouched) in the central lane, while three runners from the defending team run around the court and try to avoid being touched. Each sitting player on the chasing team faces the opposite half of the field that their adjacent teammates are facing.
At any time, one player from the chasing team (the 'active chaser'/'attacker') may run around the court to attempt to tag (touch) members of the defending team, with one point scored per tag, and each tagged defender required to leave the field; however, the active chaser cannot cross the central lane to access the other half of the field, and cannot change direction once they start running toward either pole. The chasing team can get around these restrictions if the active chaser either switches roles with a sitting teammate (by touching them on the back while saying "Kho") who is facing the other half of the court and therefore has access to it, or runs to the area behind either pole and then switches direction/half. Each team has two turns to score and two turns to defend, with each turn lasting nine minutes. The team that scores the most points by the end of the game wins.
The sport is widely played across South Asia, and also has a strong presence in the regions outside South Asia, such as South Africa and England. It is played most often by school children in India and Pakistan and is a competitive game. The first league of its kind called Ultimate Kho Kho was unveiled in India in August 2022.
The name comes from Marathi: खोखो (khō-khō), the word kho is an onomatopoeia of the sound invoked while playing the game.
Kho-kho has been played since at least the fourth century BC. Certain aspects of kho-kho's gameplay may have been mentioned in the Mahabharata. In pre-modern times, it is believed that a version of kho-kho known as Rathera was played on chariots (ratha meaning "chariot" in Sanskrit). The game was also known in ancient times as "Kho-dhwani krida", translating as "a game where the sound 'kho' is made".
The modern form of the game was standardised in 1914, with its rules and formalised structure being given by Pune's Deccan Gymkhana club. Kho-kho was demonstrated at the 1936 Berlin Olympics alongside other traditional Indian games. It is now a medal sport in the South Asian Games, having been played in the 2016 edition. Other international kho-kho competitions, such as the Asian Kho Kho Championship, have been held with the collaboration of organisations such as the Kho Kho Federation of India and the Kho Kho Federation of England, with the sport having been spread overseas by the South Asian diaspora. Within South Asia, it has been accepted into major sports events such as Khelo India and the National Games of India, with its growth supported by its simplicity and affordability.
Kho-kho's rules and appearance have changed over time; it was generally played on muddy surfaces in the past, but today is often professionally played on matted surfaces. This transition has altered the game, as more energy is required to run on a matted surface, with injuries also increasing to some extent. Various other aspects of the game, such as the poles and the dimensions of the playing field, were also added over time.
In July 2022, the player draft for Ultimate Kho Kho was completed, which is a six-team franchise-based Indian Kho Kho tournament. Its inaugural season ran from August 14 to September 4, 2022.
The field is 27 by 16 metres (89 by 52 ft), with a distance of 24 metres (79 ft) between the two poles, and the central lane having a width of 30 centimetres (12 in). Each of the cross lanes (which pass through the sitting areas that the chasers sit in, and go from one side of the court to the other) has a width of 35 centimetres (14 in), with adjacent cross lanes 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) apart, and a separation of 2.55 metres (8 ft 4 in) between each pole and its adjacent cross lane. Each pole is 120 to 125 centimetres (47 to 49 in) high and 9 to 10 centimetres (3.5 to 3.9 in) in diameter. The poles are smooth and round, with no sharp edges. There are 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in)-long extensions of the court behind each of the poles known as "free zones", in which there are no restrictions on chasers' movements.
At the start of play, the active chaser starts off in one of the free zones, and can run into either half of the court to tag the three defenders. Once all three defenders have been tagged out or otherwise "dismissed", the next "batch" of three defenders comes onto the court.
The active chaser can switch roles with a sitting teammate by touching them on the back and shouting "kho"; this is known as the active chaser "giving a kho" to the sitting teammate. For the kho to be valid, it must be given before the active chaser has gone past the cross lane that the teammate is sitting within, with the sitting teammate not moving/rising before receiving the kho. Once a sitting chaser becomes active, they may only enter the half of the court which they were facing while they were sitting; additionally, once the newly active chaser steps to the left or right of the cross lane they were sitting in (or turns in such a way that their shoulders face towards either pole), they must continue in that direction until they have reached the free zone.
Violating any of these rules results in a "foul", in which case the chasing team can no longer attempt to tag any defenders. In order to clear the foul, the active chaser must move in the opposite direction of the one they were running in (i.e. away from the defenders they were chasing) until they have either given a kho to a teammate, or reached the appropriate free zone.
The chasing team scores points each time a defender is ruled "out" (dismissed), which happens either when a chaser tags a defender without breaking any rules, when a defender steps out of the court (with no part of the body remaining grounded within), or when a defender is late to enter the court as part of a new batch after the dismissal of the previous batch.
In the case of a tie, some matches have a tiebreaker known as a "minimum chase", in which each team is allotted an additional turn to score. Each team's turn ends once they have scored one point, with the team that is faster at scoring a point during their minimum chase turn winning the match.
In one variation of kho-kho, a team is no longer allowed to chase once it has tagged all the players on the other team. The team that tags all of its opponents in the shortest amount of time wins.
In this variant, the field is modified so that it is simply a 5 m (16 ft) inner circle and a 7 m (23 ft) outer circle, with the outer circle acting as the boundary of the field. Instead of sitting, eight of the nine chasers stand in positions evenly spaced around the perimeter of the inner circle, with each alternate chaser facing into or away from the inner circle; when a chaser is given a kho, they can only run in the inside or outside of the inner circle depending on which way they were facing while inactive.
This variant is played on a circular field, with an inner circle and outer boundary being demarcated. At the start of the game, two of the players become a cat and mouse respectively, with all other players becoming pitchers. All of the pitchers pair off and stand around the perimeter of the inner circle, with each pair holding each other by the elbow. The cat's goal is to tag the mouse; if the mouse links their elbow with one of the pitchers, then the pitcher who is not connected to the mouse disconnects from the pairing and swaps roles with the mouse. If the cat catches the mouse, then they swap roles.
In one variation of elbow tag, when a mouse links their elbow with one of the pitchers, the pitcher who disconnects from the pairing becomes a cat, and the previous cat becomes a mouse.The same game is known as 'standing kho-kho' in South Asia, a variation of the Indian tag variant kho-kho. In the 'standing kho-kho' variant, players simply stand in front of or behind each other as opposed to hooking their elbows together.
Main article: Ultimate Kho Kho
Ultimate Kho Kho (UKK) is an Indian kho kho competition, and its first season took place in 2022.