Petanque, pronounced “pay-tonk”, one of Europe’s most popular outdoor games, is a cousin of both horseshoes and of the Italian bowling game called ‘bocce’. The game originated in the South of France in the early 1900’s.
The aim is to toss, or roll a number of hollow steel balls (“boules”) as close as possible to a small wooden target ball, called “but” or “cochonnet” (French for “piglet”). Players take turns and the team that ends up nearest to the target ball when all balls are played, wins.
Unlike horseshoes, where the aim stake is fixed, petanques’ target ball may be hit at any time, which can completely upset the score at the last second.
And whereas official ‘bocce’ rules call for a smooth, prepared court with markers and sideboards, petanque can be played on most outdoor surfaces, without any setup.
No special skill is required, adults can play with children, and the equipment is inexpensive. The game of petanque is simple, relaxing, lots of fun, and a perfect way to make new friends. Last but not least, petanque can be – and usually is – played while enjoying a cool drink (the French will often go for pastis) and tasty snacks.
No wonder this extremely pleasant game is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide.