Buckaroo! is a game of physical skill, intended for children aged four and above. Buckaroo is made by Milton Bradley, a division of the toy company Hasbro. Originally released in 1970 by ideal using a white mule this has now been replaced with a brown one. Play centres on a simple articulated plastic model of a donkey named Roo (or Buckaroo). The mule begins the game standing on all four feet, with just a blanket on its back. Players take turns placing various items onto the mule's back. They must do so very gently, as a delicate spring mechanism inside the mule will be triggered by excess vibration—if it is triggered, the mule bucks up on its front legs, throwing off all the accumulated items. The player who triggered this buck is knocked out of the game, and play resumes. The winner is the last player remaining in the game. In the (unlikely) event that a player manages to place the last item onto the donkey's back without it bucking, that player is the winner.
The items which players must place on the mule's back are (variations in names from 2007 UK version in brackets):
- a bedroll
- a canteen (water bottle)
- a crate (rifle box)
- a frying pan
- a cowboy hat
- a guitar
- a holster (holster with gun)
- a lantern (lamp)
- a rope
- a saddle
- a shovel
- a stick of dynamite
Of these, the saddle must be placed first. It has a number of points on which the subsequent items are hung. These other items may be placed in any order (some players have personal theories as to which is the most likely to cause the mule to buck).
The game has three sensitivity levels that are adjustable via a switch located on the side of the mule's body, under the blanket. The switch adjusts the location of the lever to which the blanket is attached in relation to the trigger mechanism attached to the spring.
In 2006, Buckaroo! was considered dangerous, due to the objects getting flung off of the mule when the spring is triggered. On Good Morning America and CTV News, it was mentioned that an object has hit a child in the eye, in North Carolina, causing the 8-year-old boy to have surgery. No charges were placed. The game was discontinued until 2008 when the instructions were adjusted.
In popular culture
- Buckaroo! is a favourite game of Father Dougal McGuire in Irish sitcom Father Ted. He regularly plays the game with Ted, despite the fact that Ted hates it and would rather play chess.
- The game is seen being played in the film This Is England under the name "Kick Donkey".
- In the BBC Radio 4 series Cabin Pressure, Douglas and Martin engage in a variation of the game dubbed "Flight Deck Buckaroo!" in which the players find out who can disable the most instruments without setting off the recording emergency warning.