The origin of the game Red Rover is not clearly documented, but some facts about the game's early days are known. The game seems to have originated in Britain in the 19th century. Historians have record of the game being played in 1930. From Britain, the game spread all over the world, was given a new and localized name in each area where it became popular.
The original name of the game Red Rover seems to have been Octopus Tag or British Bulldogs, as these names were used when the game spread from the United Kingdom to Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth. There are variations of the game in China and Japan that have different names. The game is known as Forcing the City Gates in China. In Japan, the game is known as Hana Ichi Monme.
In modern times, the British game is called Red Rover as well. Røver is the Norweigian word for robber, so some suggest that the name of the game may have originated from a conflict with Norway. There is also a book by James Fenimore Cooper known as Red Rover, and some suggest the name may have come from his literary work.