Pétanque is a French team game of skill and strategy that involves throwing hollow metal balls, called boules, on a playing field as close as possible to a small, wooden goal ball called a “jack” or “cochonnet.” The modern version of the game, which can be seen in this video, was developed in the Provençe region of France near the turn of the 20th Century, but has its roots in a game played in ancient Greece and modified by the ancient Romans. Variations of the game are played throughout much of the modern world, in Spain, Italy, England, Australia, and even the U.S. Some names of these related games are bocce, bowls, boccia, and curling. And one can't help but see related rules and skills in the games of cornhole, shuffleboard, and horseshoes.
The word pétanque comes from the Occitan word petanca, which is itself derived from the phrase pès tancats, which simply means “feet together.” Indeed, all players are required to throw their boules with both of their feet anchored firmly within a circle drawn on the ground. The cochonnet is tossed onto the playing field, and the two opposing teams take turns attempting to throw their boules closer to the cochonnet than their opponents. Proximity to the cochonnet earns the teams points, and teams may even use their boules to knock the opposing team's boules away from the cochonnet.
While casual games of pétanque are played by an estimated 17 million people in France, there are national and international organizing bodies for formal play as well. The World Federation of the Sport of Boules has been lobbying the Olympic committee since 1985 to make pétanque a part of the summer Olympic games. Julie, whose pétanque set can be seen here, often plays the game with her friends and family in the summer months, and Chad recalls his Sicilian relatives playing endless games of bocce each summer. And games of pétanque can played here in Austin on warm nights at Justine's Brasserie! Have you ever played one of these games?