Bowling History
Ten Pin Bowling Variations


Bowling History, Ten Pin Bowling Variations, German Kegels, Curling, English Skittles, Dutch Pins, Rolly Polly, Lawn Bowling, Bocce, Pentangue, History of Bowling

Variations of Ten Pin Bowling:

Soon after the ancestral activity of bowling ready its way into European countries, a variety of different versions developed as time passes. The German variation, “Kegels,” developed around 300 AD. A type of bowling was favored in the united kingdom in 1366, at the time of the reign of King Edward III. Almost all varieties of the English sport “Skittles” presented projectiles being propelled from one end of an alley in order to strike down pins at the other end. Furthermore there were and still are a variety of different versions of the activity in Western European countries, the majority of which have expanded into other locations of the world.

German Kegels:

The German historian William Pehle noted that an ancient form of bowling was played in the country in 300 BC, when German monks devised a game parishioners could play each week in an effort to increase church attendance. During this time, most Germans carried “kegels,” or clubs, for protection. These clubs were very similar in shape to modern day bowling pins. The game the monks created involved placing the kegels at one end of a runway and then taking turns rolling stones at them in an attempt to knock the kegels over.


Curling, a game played on ice by teams in which players slide stones across the ice towards a target area, originated in Scotland in the 16th century. Although it bears a strong resemblance to the modern day game of hockey, it is supposed to have its roots in the various pin games that were circulating throughout Europe at the time, and is very similar to lawn bowling.

English Skittles:

Skittles is a popular pub game that is an ancestor of ten-pin bowling. It is played with a ball, sometimes referred to as “cheese,” and several wooden pins, or “skittles.” The game is very similar to bowling. Players, for instance, take turns throwing the ball down a lane in an attempt to knock the skittles over. The score is kept by counting the number of skittles that are knocked over. Unlike bowling, however, the skittles are arranged in the shape of a diamond. And unlike bowling, the winner is the first to reach a certain total of toppled skittles. Additionally, players can take their final throw at the ball at point blank range. This technique is called “tipping.”

Dutch Pins:

Like the game English Skittles, Dutch Pins also involved rolling a ball from a distance at nine pins, and also included the practice of "tipping," or tossing the ball at the pins at point blank range for the final throw. It was different from English Skittles in some ways, however. For instance, the wooden balls had finger holes and were much heavier than the balls used in skittles and up to six times larger. The pins were taller and thinner than skittles. Dutch Pins also incorporated the use of a kingpin – a single pin that stood higher than the others. In addition, the game used nine pins set up in a square shape, with three pins to a row. It was scored by the total number of pins knocked over. If the kingpin was taken out singly on the first throw, the game was won. Otherwise, the kingpin counted the same as the other pins.

Rolly Polly:

Rolly Polly played with pins and a half-sphere of wood on a level floor or smooth plot of ground. Because the ball was a half-ball it had a huge bias, or tendency to swerve, a feature that was incorporated into the game. The ball was rolled at 12 pins positioned in a circle with a diameter of about 2 ½ feet. There was 1 pin in the center of the circle and 2 more pins positioned outside of the circle and behind it, parallel to the center pin (so that a line of 5 pins was formed – including the one in the center and the two pins on the circumference of the circle on each side of the center pin). The ball had to go past the circle of pins and the final pin before returning, due to the bias, in the reverse direction to knock down the pins. This was not an easy task and required much practice and skill.

Lawn Bowling:

Deriving its name from the Latin word “boulles,” which means ball, the game of lawn bowling known simply as “bowls.” The game originated in the British Isles in the 13th century. Bowls played upon a square of level lawn of closely clipped grass that has a trench running along each of its sides. The game played using a round stone, or ball, which rolled across the lawn to knock over several targets, known as “jacks.” The game is more intricate than the modern day version of ten-pin bowling, requiring many rules and much calculation.


Bocce, which has its roots in the bowling game played by the Roman soldiers that eventually spread throughout the Roman Empire, being played in Northern Italy approximately 2000 years ago. The name of the game emerged from the Vulgar Latin term “bottia,” which means “ball.” The Italian form of the word is “boccia,” and “Bocce” is the plural. In addition, Bocce played on level soil or on an asphalt court. A ball is rolled down a lane with the goal of having the ball come to rest near a smaller ball, called a “jack.” The balls are often thrown with an underhand motion, in the same manner as in ten-pin bowling. Bocce played between two players, or between teams consisting of two to four players. Each player or team throws four balls per frame, and the one with the ball closet to the jack in each frame scores. A typical game plays to a range of 7 to 13 points.


Petangue a French variation of the game of "lawn bowling". Invented in the early 20th century in an effort to aid bowl players whom are prevented from running by illness or injury. The length of the playing field is reduced by approximately half and the delivery of the ball is a stationary one. Pentangue, traditionally played with 3 metallic balls on a dirt surface. The object of the game is to throw a larger ball so that it lands close to a small object ball, called a “cochonnet.” In the same way as the Italian game of bocce and the British game of lawn bowling, the player with more balls thrown close to the smaller ball wins. The game of Pentangue is still quite popular in France today, with the local “boulodrome,” or playing field, serving as a main social gathering place throughout southern France.

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