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Do You Know What The Early Football Was Made Of?

May. 18, 2021

Do You Know What The Early Football Was Made Of?

How the football developed over the years?

There was a point, right back at the beginning of the sport, when rugby and football were very closely related. Football and rugby were initially very closely related sports, with the main thing that differed between them being the rules. As all we know, is played with an oval shaped ball, whilst footballs are completely spherical.

It seems bizarre to think about nowadays, but originally both rugby balls and footballs were more round in appearance than anything else. That was because they were made from pig’s bladders, giving them a somewhat distinctive plum-like shape.

Early Footballs - Pig Bladder to Inner Tubes.


Part of the problem in those early days was that not all pigs were the same size or shape and, as a consequence, not all pig’s bladders were the same either. Sometimes they would be bigger than others, sometimes they would be strange shapes. The type of bladder you got would dictate how it reacted when it was kicked, thrown or otherwise used. It wasn’t until the introduction of rubber inner-tubes by Richard Lindon in 1862 that a definitive difference between footballs and rugby balls began to emerge.

It is believed that Lindon came up with the idea of using India rubber to make the ball after his wife, who had been helping him to blow up the pig’s bladders into balls, passed away, likely from a disease she caught from one of the bladders.

India rubber was far too difficult to blow up by mouth, so Lindon also invented the first known ball pump.

The initial balls were far more spherical in appearance, but that didn’t go down too well with Rugby School who wanted to keep playing with a more oval-shaped ball in order to differentiate their game from the one being introduced up and down the country.

At first these new rugby balls were egg-shaped, but in 1892 the Rugby Football Union decided to make oval the official shape of the rugby ball.

Football liner and rugby liner

Football liner and rugby liner

The Football Association was formed in 1863, but when it came up with a list of rules of the game no specification was put down regarding the size and shape of the ball that should be used for matches. It wasn’t until the rules were revised in 1872 that that changed and an official set of dimensions for the ball to be used was written down for the first time.

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