Tourism Ireland

History of Petanque in France

by Jack Guy

Apr 8, 2019

camping © Francesco Vaninetti | Dreamstime

History

The game of petanque involves throwing hollow metal balls as close to a small wooden ball, known as the jack, from a standing position.

Most of the time you will see it played on dirt or gravel, but you can play on grass or sand too. It’s very much a part of the culture in southern France, where the modern form of the game started in La Ciotat, Provence.

Originally a similar game was played by Ancient Romans, who modified an Ancient Greek game involving throwing stones as far as possible by adding the target element. It was popular throughout Europe by the Middle Ages, although it was banned for commoners in France in the 14th century. By the 17th century, the ban was lifted and the game spread once more.

The south of France even evolved its own version of the game, known as jeu provencal, in which players ran three steps before throwing the ball down a larger field. However, in 1907, a rheumatic player came up with the idea of shortening the field and throwing from a standing start as his condition would not allow him to run.

Soon this version became the most popular form of the game, and it’s now played around the world in French-speaking communities.

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