Pétanque (French pronunciation: ​[petɑ̃k]; Occitan: petanca [peˈtaŋkɔ]) is a sport that falls into the category of boules sports, along with raffa, bocce, boule lyonnaise, lawn bowls and crown green bowling. All of these sports share something in common, in that players or teams play their boules/balls towards a target ball.[1]

In Pétanque the objective is to score points by having boules closer to the target than your opponent after all boules have been thrown. This is achieved by projecting boules closer to the target, called a cochonnet,[2] or by hitting the opponents' boules away from the target, while standing inside a circle with both feet on the ground.

The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel. It can be played in public areas in parks, or in dedicated facilities called boulodromes.

Petanque on a beach of Nice
Pétanque players on the beach in Nice

The current form of the game originated in 1907 or 1910 in La Ciotat, in Provence, France. The French name pétanque (borrowed into English, with or without the acute accent) comes from petanca in the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats [ˈpɛs taŋˈkats], meaning 'feet fixed' or 'feet planted' (on the ground).[3]

Highest governing bodyFédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal
First playedProvence, France
Team membersIndividual, doubles and triples
EquipmentBoules (balls) & cochonnet (little ball)
World Games1985–present
The sport of Pétanque being played in Marseille


Invention of the game

Boules games have a very long history, dating back through the Middle Ages to ancient Rome, and before that to ancient Greece and Egypt.

In France in the second half of the 19th century a form of boules known as jeu provençal (or boule lyonnaise) was extremely popular. In this form of the game players rolled their boules or ran three steps before throwing a boule. Pétanque originally developed as an offshoot or variant of jeu provençal in 1910, in what is now called the Jules Lenoir Boulodrome in the town of La Ciotat near Marseilles. A former jeu provençal player named Jules Lenoir was afflicted by rheumatism so severe that he could no longer run before throwing a boule. In fact, he could barely stand. A good friend named Ernest Pitiot was a local café owner. In order to accommodate his friend Lenoir, Pitiot developed a variant form of the game in which the length of the pitch or field was reduced by roughly half, and a player, instead of running to throw a boule, stood, stationary, in a circle. They called the game pieds tanqués, "feet planted" (on the ground), a name that eventually evolved into the game's current name, pétanque.[4]

The first pétanque tournament was organized by Ernest Pitiot, along with his brother Joseph Pitiot, in 1910 in La Ciotat. After that the game spread quickly and soon became the most popular form of boules in France.

Before the mid-1800s, European boules games were played with solid wooden balls, usually made from boxwood root, a very hard wood. The late 1800s saw the introduction of cheap mass-manufactured nails, and wooden boules gradually began to be covered with nails, producing boules cloutées ("nailed boules"). After World War I, cannonball manufacturing technology was adapted to allow the manufacture of hollow, all-metal boules. The first all-metal boule, la Boule Intégrale, was introduced in the mid-1920s by Paul Courtieu. The Intégrale was cast in a single piece from a bronze-aluminum alloy. Shortly thereafter Jean Blanc invented a process of manufacturing steel boules by stamping two steel blanks into hemispheres and then welding the two hemispheres together to create a boule. With this technological advance, hollow all-metal balls rapidly became the norm.[5]

Global spread of the game

After the development of the all-metal boule, pétanque spread rapidly from Provence to the rest of France, then to the rest of Europe, and then to Francophone colonies and countries around the globe. Today, many countries have their own national governing bodies.

Pétanque players in Cannes (France) 2003
Pétanque players in Cannes

In France, the Fédération Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP) has more than 300,000 licensed members.

There are strong national federations in Germany, Spain, and England. Petanque is actively played in many nations with histories of French colonial influence, especially in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Puducherry, India, as well as some parts of Africa. Today, some of the strongest players in the world come from Madagascar and Thailand.

Pétanque was featured at the 2015 All-Africa Games, which were hosted by the Republic of Congo, a former French colony.[6]

Petanque is not widely played in the Americas. There is a Canadian petanque federation based in Québec. In the United States the Federation of Petanque USA (FPUSA) reports that about 30,000 play nationwide. As of December 1, 2015, FPUSA counted 2141 members in the US, in 52 affiliated clubs.[7]

On the international level, the governing body of petanque is the Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FIPJP). It was founded in 1958 in Marseille and has about 600,000 members in 52 countries as of 2002.

In popular culture: The game makes an appearance in the 1966 French crime film Le deuxieme souffle.

National and international competitions

There are a number of important world championship tournaments.

The FIPJP world championships take place every two years. Men's championships are held in even-numbered years, while Women's and Youth championships are held in odd-numbered years.[8]

Perhaps the best-known international championship is the Mondial la Marseillaise à Pétanque, which takes place every year in Marseille, France, with more than 10,000 participants and more than 150,000 spectators.[9]

The largest annual tournament in the United States is the Petanque Amelia Island Open (formerly the Petanque America Open), held in each year in November at Amelia Island, Florida.

La British Open is a major Pétanque tournament held in the North of England, in the United Kingdom. So far, this attracts players from across the UK and Europe.

Pétanque is not currently an Olympic sport, although the Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules—which was created in 1985 by several international boules organizations specifically for this purpose—has been lobbying the Olympic committee since 1985 to make it part of the summer Olympics.[10][11]

Playing the game


Pétanque is played by two teams, where each team consists of one, two, or three players.

In the singles and doubles games each player plays with three metal boules. In triples each player uses only two.

The area where a pétanque game is played is called a terrain. A game can be played in an open area like a public park, where the boundaries of the terrain are not marked, or more formally on a "marked terrain" where the terrain boundaries are marked (traditionally, by strings tightly strung between nails driven into the ground).

Petanque - throwing from the circle
Pétanque player throwing from a prefabricated circle

In pétanque, players throw while standing in a circle. Traditionally, the circle was simply scratched in the dirt. Starting around 2005, red plastic "prefabricated" circles were introduced and are now widely used in formal games. A circle drawn on the ground must be 35–50 cm (14–20 in) in diameter, while a plastic circle must have an inside diameter of 50 cm (20 in).

The "ends"

A game consists of several mènes. The French word mène is usually translated into English as "end" or "round".

An end consists of the throwing out of the jack (the little wooden target ball), followed by the two teams throwing their boules.

After both teams have thrown all of their boules, the team with the boule closest to the jack wins the end. The winning team scores one point for each of its boules that is closer than the opposing team's closest boule. That means that the winning team could in theory score as many as six points in an end, although a score of one or two points is more typical.

As the game progresses, each team accumulates points until one of the teams reaches 13, the winning number of points.

Order of play

A game begins with a coin toss to determine which team plays first. The team that wins the toss begins the game by placing the circle, then standing in the circle and throwing the jack to a distance of 6–10 metres (20–33 ft). A player from the team that threw the jack, throws the first boule. Then a player from the opposing team throws a boule.

From that point on, the team with the boule that is closest to the jack is said to "have the point". The team that does not have the point, throws the next boule. That team continues to throw boules until it either gains the point, or runs out of boules.

If at any point the closest boules from each team are equidistant from the jack, then the team that threw the last boule throws again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the tie is broken. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the mène then neither team scores any points.

The team that won the end, starts the next end. A player from the winning team places (or draws) a circle around the jack. He/she then picks up the jack, stands in the circle, and throws the jack to start the next end.


Petanque scoring example 1 point
Team Red has the boule closest to the jack, but the second-closest boule belongs to Team Blue. Red scores one point. Blue scores nothing.
Petanque scoring example 2 points
Team Red has two boules closer than Team Blue's closest boule. Red scores two points. Blue scores nothing.

An end is complete when both teams have played all of their boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play (goes "dead").

If the end finishes in the usual way—with the jack still alive and one team with the closest boule—then the team with the closest boule wins the end and scores one point for each of its boules that is closer to the jack than other team's closest boule.

If the jack is alive but there is an "equidistant boules" situation at the end of the mène, then neither team scores any points. If the jack is dead at the finish of the end, then if one (and only one) team still has boules left to play, that team scores one point for each boule that it still has in hand. Otherwise neither team scores any points in the end (like an inning in baseball in which neither team scores any runs).

Miscellaneous rules

  • Boules can be thrown in any way that the player wishes, but the traditional way is to hold the boule with the palm of the hand downwards, and then to throw with an under-arm swing of the arm ending in an upward flick of the wrist. Throwing this way puts backspin on the boule and gives the player the maximum amount of control and flexibility when throwing.
  • The boule can be rolled, thrown to a moderate height, or even thrown to a great height (a high lob or portée).
  • Players usually carry a tape measure for measuring close points.
  • At the beginning of an end, before throwing the jack, if there isn't enough room for the player to throw the jack to the maximum legal distance of 10 metres (33 ft), then the player is allowed to move the circle back to a point where there is enough room.
  • On a terrain with boundaries marked with strings, a boule or jack must completely cross the boundary string before it is considered to be out-of-bounds and dead.

Equipment specifications

Jack (cochonnet) and boule


Leisure boules are boules that do not meet the FIPJP standards for competition boules, but are less expensive than competition boules and completely adequate for "backyard" games. Unlike competition boules, leisure boules are a "one size fits all" affair—they come in one weight and size.

Competition boules must meet specifications set by the FIPJP. They must be hollow and made of metal (usually steel) with a diameter between 70.5 and 80 mm (2.78 and 3.15 in) and a weight between 650 and 800 g (23 and 28 oz). When purchasing competition boules, a purchaser has a choice of a number of characteristics of the boules, including the size, weight, and hardness of the boules, as well as the striations (patterned grooves on the surface of the boules).


The jack, or target ball, is a small ball made of wood, traditionally boxwood or beechwood, 30 mm (1.2 in) in diameter.[12] In the past jacks were often left "natural"—unfinished or with a clear finish—but nowadays they are often painted in bright colors. In French, the jack is known by a variety of names, including but (goal or target), cochonnet (piglet), bouchon ("little ball" in provençal language, not related to the french word "bouchon" that designates a bottle stopper), le petit (the little one), and gari ("rat", also in provençal language).

Playing area

Pétanque can be played on almost any flat, open space. The ground may be irregular and interrupted by trees or rocks, and the surface is likely to be uneven, with some areas hard and smooth and other areas rough and stony. When an area is constructed specifically for the purposes of playing petanque, the playing surface is typically loose gravel, decomposed granite, brick grog or crushed sea shell. Sandy beaches are not suitable, although light plastic boules are sometimes used to adapt the game for the beach. There is no requirement for backboards or sideboards (as in bocce), but dedicated playing areas are often enclosed in boards or some other structural barrier.

In France, village squares and park pathways are often used as pétanque playing areas. In addition, many towns have recreational facilities (boulodromes) constructed especially for playing pétanque.

An area where a single pétanque game is played is called a 'piste'. A terrain is an area where one or more petanque games are being played. At any given time a terrain may be hosting one or more pistes.

For tournaments, a large playing area is subdivided and marked off (typically using nails and string) into rectangular marked terrains (also known as "lanes" (cadres) or "pistes") so that multiple games may be carried on simultaneously. For tournament play, a marked terrain is a rectangle at least 4 metres (13 ft) wide and 15 metres (49 ft) long.

In the United States, proponents of pétanque such as author Byron Putman often urge the use of non-dedicated public terrains—public walking paths, playground areas, dirt/gravel parking lots, and baseball infields – as terrains.


Pointing and shooting

Generally speaking, a player throws a boule with one of two objectives.

  • To make his boule come to rest in a particular spot, usually as close as possible to the jack. This is called pointing.
  • To make his boule directly hit an opponent's boule with the goal of knocking it away from the jack. This is called shooting.

The best throw of all is called a carreau. It is a shot that knocks away the opponent's boule, leaving the thrown boule exactly in its place.

Players who are skillful enough to shoot effectively are called shooters; players who usually point are called pointers. (The French terms are tireur and pointeur, respectively.) As a matter of strategy, pointers play first and shooters are held in reserve in case the opponents place well. Good pointing is what scores points, but national and international championships are usually dominated by skillful shooters, who target any opposing boule that comes close to scoring.

Throwing a boule

Some strategic considerations involved in the throw of a boule include:

  • Traditionally, a fundamental rule of petanque is boule devant, boule d'argent ("A ball in front is a money ball."). A boule located in front of the jack is much more valuable than one behind the jack. A boule in front blocks the opposing team from easy access to the jack, and it may also (intentionally or accidentally) be hit and pushed closer to the jack.
  • As a pointer, if you point a boule very close to the jack, you force the opposing shooter to shoot it immediately. That may be a bad thing if you really wanted to keep that boule. Or it may be a good thing if you're trying to force the opposing shooter to exhaust his supply of boules.
  • Generally speaking, it is a bad idea to shoot with your team's last boule. In most cases, the better strategy is to "limit the damage" by pointing your team's last boule close enough to the jack to limit the opposing team to winning only one point.

Throwing the jack

Strategic considerations involved in the throw of the jack include:

  • Throw the jack to a distance at which your own shooter is most comfortable, or the opposing shooter is least comfortable.
  • Aim for a location on the terrain that your own pointers favor, or that might be difficult for the opposing team's pointers.
  • Disorient the opposing team by refusing to get in a rut. At each opportunity, throw the jack to a new position on the terrain, and alternate long and short distances.

Glossary of special terms

  • to have the point
A team is said to "have the point" if one of its boules is closer to the jack than any of the opposing team's boules. A team that has the point is basically in a winning position, so the team that does NOT have the point throws the next boule and attempts to gain the point.
  • boule devant, boule d'argent
Roughly "A ball in front is a money ball". This maxim reminds players that when pointing, the most valuable place for a boule is in front of the jack. In that location, it prevents opponents from throwing directly toward the jack, and hitting it will push it even closer to the jack.
  • to point
To throw one's boule with the intent of stopping near the jack (also known as placing). Video: 20 best points from the Masters de Pétanque 2017
  • to shoot
To throw one's boule at an opponent's boule (or at the jack) in an attempt to knock it out of play. When the opposing team has a boule positioned very close to the jack, often the best strategy is to attempt to shoot it. A team in a desperate situation may attempt to save itself by shooting the jack out of bounds. Video: 20 best shots from the Masters de Pétanque 2017
  • to lob
(French: une portée) To throw one's boule in a high arc so that when it lands it only rolls minimally. Video: Marco Foyot demonstrates the high lob.
  • carreau
(pronounced carrow). A shot that knocks an opposing boule away from the jack and replaces it (in very nearly the same spot) with the thrower's own boule. Basically, the perfect shot. Video: Diego Rizzi demonstrates a perfect carreau.
Fanny Le Rituel
A man kissing Fanny.
  • to fanny (mettre fanny in French)
To win a game without the opposing team scoring any points; a shutout game. When a player loses 13 to 0, he is said to fanny ("il est fanny", he's fanny, or "il a fait fanny", he made fanny) and must kiss the bottom of a girl named Fanny. Virtually everywhere in Provence where pétanque is played, you will find a picture, woodcarving, or pottery figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny. Often, the team that made "fanny" has to buy a round of drinks for the winning team ("Fanny paie à boire!", "the fanny pays for the drinks!").

Image gallery

Pétanque a Aigues-Mortes-France

Playing pétanque in the late afternoon at Aigues-Mortes

Toulon Playing Boules

Men playing pétanque next to the Fort St. Louis in Toulon.

Pétanque Championnats du monde à Grenoble (308551840)

The 2006 Pétanque World Championship in Grenoble, France

Petanque batignolles

Action on the Pétanque field in Batignolles.

Petanque in brighton

Players of the Brighton & Hove Petanque Club on the Peace Statue Terrain, Brighton & Hove, UK

Boulespieler am Hafen von Bonifacio im August 1975 (retouched)

Pétanque players at the port of Bonifacio in 1975

See also


  1. ^ https://thisispetanque.com/what-is-petanque.html
  2. ^ The cochonnet is also sometimes called a bouchon (literally "little ball", from the Occitan bochon) or le petit ("the small one").
  3. ^ "Terminology – Origin of the word pétanque". 21 September 2014.
  4. ^ Giol, Charles (November 2011). "La pétanque". Historia.
  5. ^ See The Birth of Petanque
  6. ^ Okamba, Louis; Imray, Gerald. "All Africa Games return to roots in Republic of Congo". Times Union. Associated Press. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  7. ^ FPUSA 2015/16. Annual Publication of the Federation of Petanque, USA
  8. ^ Les Championnats du Monde de Pétanque Archived 2012-12-15 at the Wayback Machine at the FIPJP web site.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-23. Retrieved 2013-03-08.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ History of the FIPJP Archived 2012-08-10 at the Wayback Machine at the FIPJP web site.
  11. ^ "CMSB". 7 October 2014.
  12. ^ In 2002 the FIPJP began certifying non-wooden "synthetic" or "resin" jacks, and in 2013 began certifying synthetic jacks capable of being picked up by a magnet. In 2016, however, synthetic jacks were effectively outlawed because of their weight. For a review of the evolution of the rules governing the jack, see https://petanquerules.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/evolution-of-the-jack/

External links


Bocce (; Italian pronunciation: [ˈbɔttʃe]), sometimes anglicized as bocci or boccie, is a ball sport belonging to the boules family, closely related to British bowls and French pétanque, with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire. Developed into its present form in Italy, it is played around Europe and also in other areas with Italian migrants, including Australia, North America, and South America. Initially played only by the Italian migrants, the game has slowly become more popular with their descendants and the wider community.

Bocce volo

Bocce volo ("flying boules"), or boule lyonnaise ("Lyonnais boules"), is a boules-type game.

In bocce volo, the balls are thrown overhand (palm down) and are metal. In standard bocce, the wooden or plastic balls are tossed underhand (palm up) and rolled.

Volo, as it is called for short by the Italians, derives its name from the Italian verb volare meaning 'to fly', and refers to the technique of throwing a ball through the air in an attempt to knock away an opponent's ball.

Bocce volo is similar to pétanque in that the ball is thrown rather than rolled or bowled. It is similar to traditional bocce (and different from pétanque) in that the ball is delivered with a run-up. A volo players' run-up is athletic, even theatrical, as in jeu provençal.


Boules (French pronunciation: ​[bul]) is a collective name for a wide range of games similar to bowls and bocce (In French: jeu or jeux, in Italian: gioco or giochi) in which the objective is to throw or roll heavy balls (called boules in France, and bocce in Italy) as close as possible to a small target ball, called the jack in English.

Boules-type games are traditional and popular in many European countries and are also popular in some former French colonies in Africa and Asia. Boules games are often played in open spaces (town squares and parks) in villages and towns. Dedicated playing areas for boules-type games are typically large, level, rectangular courts made of flattened earth, gravel, or crushed stone, enclosed in wooden rails or back boards.

Boules at the 2013 Mediterranean Games

The bocce competitions at the 2013 Mediterranean Games in Mersin took place between 25 June and 29 June at the Toroslar Bocce Facility.

Athletes competed in 10 events across 3 disciplines: lyonnaise, pétanque and raffa.

Cambodia at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games

Cambodia will be participating in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore from 5 to 16 June 2015.

Gibraltar Petanque Association

The Gibraltar Petanque Association (GPA) is a small pétanque federation in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, with the aim of promoting the sport within the territory. The association is made up of approximately 80 members (ranging from ages 13 to 93) with its premises located at the Giralda Gardens on the city walls of Gibraltar along Smith Dorrien Avenue. Its facilities consist of four floodlit pistes.

Jeu provençal

Jeu provençal ('game of Provence'; also known as boule lyonnaise, "boules of Lyon") is a French form of boules.

In Italy, the sport bocce volo, which is played with bronze balls, follows a similar set of rules.

Marist Catholic High School (Eugene, Oregon)

Marist Catholic High School is a private Roman Catholic, college preparatory school in Eugene, Oregon, United States founded by the Marist Brothers. It is part of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland. Its motto is "We are One".

Petanque at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque in the 26th Southeast Asian Games were held in Palembang, Indonesia, from 12 to 17 November 2011. A total of 6 events are held at Jakabaring Sport Complex.

Pétanque World Championships

The Pétanque World Championships are international pétanque competitions organized by the International Federation of Petanque and Provencal game; F.I.P.J.P. (Federation Internationale de Pétanque et Jeux Provençaux).

Pétanque at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games took place in the Hidden Vale Sports Club in Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines.

The event was held from December 1–4.

Pétanque is a form of boules where the goal is to throw metal balls as close as possible to a jack (a small wooden ball called a cochonnet in French, which means piglet). The game is normally played on hard sand or gravel, but can also be played on grass or any other surface. Similar games are bocce and bowls.

Pétanque at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque at the 2007 Southeast Asian Games was held in the Pétanque Court in Suranaree University of Technology, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand.

Pétanque at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games

Pétanque at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games was held in Từ Liêm Gymnasium, Hanoi, Vietnam from 4 November to 7 November 2009.

Pétanque at the 2013 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque in the 27th Southeast Asian Games was held in Naypyidaw, Myanmar between December 12–21.

Pétanque at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games was held in The Padang, Singapore from 6 to 15 June 2015.

Pétanque at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games

The pétanque competitions at the 2017 Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur were held at Pudu Ulu Recreational Park.

Raffa (boules)

Raffa (also known as raffa bocce or roundup), is a specialty, both male and female, of boules. It is governed by Confederazione Boccistica Internazionale (CBI).

Along with pétanque and bocce volo, it's one of the three specialties proposed by the Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules (all of which are included in the World Games) as possible new disciplines for the 2024 Summer Olympics.

Thailand at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games

Thailand is participating in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore from 5 to 16 June 2015.

Welsh Pétanque Association

The Welsh Pétanque Association (Welsh: Cymdeithas Pétanque Cymru) (WPA) (established 2004) is the governing body for the sport of pétanque in Wales. The WPA is affiliated to the Confédération Européenne de Pétanque (CEP) and the Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FIPJP). It aims to promote the sport's development for all people in Wales. The Welsh Pétanque Association organises competition at national and international level, including League and National Competitions and the Welsh Cup for Clubs—the winning club qualifying for the EuroCup (European Cup for Clubs)—and is responsible for the selection of the Wales national squads, who compete in international events including the Celtic Challenge, European Championships and World Championships.The WPA has 13 registered clubs. The Welsh Pétanque Association is based at Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Basket sports
Football codes
Bat-and-ball games
Stick and ball sports
Net sports
Other sports

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.