Pétanque (French pronunciation: [petɑ̃k]; Occitan: Petanca [peˈtaŋkɔ]) is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally "piglet") or jack. It is also sometimes called a bouchon (literally "cork") or le petit ("the small one"). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Similar games are bocce and bowls.
The current form of the game originated in 1907 in La Ciotat, in Provence, in southern France. The English and French name pétanque comes from petanca in the Provençal dialect of the Occitan language, deriving from the expression pès tancats [ˈpɛs taŋˈkats], meaning "feet together" or more exactly "feet anchored".
The casual form of the game of pétanque is played by about 17 million people in France, mostly during their summer vacations. It is also widely played in neighboring Spain. There are about 600,000 players licensed with the International Federation of Petanque and Provencal game, 375,000 in France with the Fédération Française de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP) and some 3,000 in England. In the United States (FPUSA) has 1,500 members in 40 clubs, and estimates about 30,000 play nation wide. Another 20,000 or so play in Quebec, Canada. Additionally, pétanque clubs have arisen in cities throughout the United States in recent years. Petanque is also played in Southeast Asia due to the French presence in the area during the last centuries: Laos, north Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. The Pétanque World Championships is the international competition and takes place every two years, while the main individual pétanque tournament takes place every year in Marseille, with more than 10,000 participants and more than 150,000 spectators.
The Ancient Greeks are recorded to have played a game of tossing coins, then flat stones, and later stone balls, called spheristics, trying to have them go as far as possible, as early as the 6th century BC. The Ancient Romans modified the game by adding a target that had to be approached as closely as possible. This Roman variation was brought to Provence by Roman soldiers and sailors. A Roman sepulchre in Florence shows people playing this game, stooping down to measure the points.
After the Romans, the stone balls were replaced by wooden balls, with nails to give them greater weight. In the Middle Ages Erasmus referred to the game as globurum, but it became commonly known as 'boules,' or balls, and it was played throughout Europe. King Henry III of England banned the playing of the game by his archers, and in the 14th century, Charles IV and Charles V of France also forbade the sport to commoners. Only in the 17th century was the ban lifted.
By the 19th century, in England the game had become "bowls" or "lawn bowling"; in France, it was known as boules, and was played throughout the country. The French artist Meissonnier made two paintings showing people playing the game, and Honoré de Balzac described a match in La Comédie Humaine. In the South of France it had evolved into jeu provençal (or boule lyonnaise), similar to today's pétanque, except that the field was larger and players ran three steps before throwing the ball. The game was played in villages all over Provence, usually on squares of land in the shade of plane trees. Matches of jeu provençal around the start of the 20th century are memorably described in the memoirs of novelist Marcel Pagnol.
Pétanque in its present form was invented in 1907 in the town of La Ciotat near Marseilles by a French jeu provençal player named Jules Lenoir, whose rheumatism prevented him from running before he threw the ball. The length of the pitch or field was reduced by roughly half, and the moving delivery was replaced with a stationary one.
The first pétanque tournament with the new rules was organized in 1910 by the brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot, proprietors of a café at La Ciotat. After that the game grew with great speed, and soon became the most popular form of boules. The international Pétanque federation Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal was founded in 1958 in Marseille and has about 600,000 members in 52 countries (2002).
The first World Championships were organized in 1959. The most recent championships were held in Faro (2000), Monaco (2001), Grenoble (2002, 2004 and 2006), Geneva (2003), Brussels (2005), and Pattaya / Thailand (2007). Fifty-two teams from 50 countries participated in 2007.
Pétanque is not currently an Olympic sport, although the Confédération Mondiale des Sports de Boules - which was created in 1985 by three international boules organizations (and has since been joined by a fourth) specifically for this purpose - has been lobbying the Olympic committee since 1985 to make it part of the summer Olympics.
Playing the game 
Pétanque is played by two, four or six people in two teams, or players can compete as individuals in casual play. In the singles and doubles games each player has three boules; in triples they have only two. A coin is tossed to decide which side goes first. The starting team draws a circle on the ground which is 35-50 centimetres in diameter: all players must throw their boules from within this circle, with both feet remaining on the ground. The first player throws the jack 6–10 metres away; it must be at least one metre from the boundary.
Order of play 
The player who threw the jack then throws their first boule. A player from the opposing team then makes a throw. Play continues with the team that is not closest to the jack having to continue throwing until they either land a boule closer to the jack than their opponents or run out of boules.
If the closest boules from each team are an equal distance from the jack, then the team that played last plays again. If the boules are still equidistant then the teams play alternately until the position changes. If the boules are still equidistant at the end of the game then no points are scored by either team.
The game continues with a player from the team that won the previous end drawing a new circle around where the jack finished and throwing the jack for a new end.
Play ends, and points may be scored when both teams have no more boules, or when the jack is knocked out of play. The winning team receives one point for each boule that it has closer to the jack than the best-placed boule of the opposition.
If the jack is knocked out of play, no team scores unless only one team has boules left to play. In this case the team with boules receives one point for each that they have to play.
The first team to reach 13 points wins.
Further rules 
- A boule hitting a boundary is dead and is removed from that end.
- On a court or piste marked with strings, a boule is dead if it completely crosses the string.
- The circle can be moved back in the line of the previous end if there is not room to play a 10 metre end.
- The boule can be thrown at any height or even rolled depending on the terrain.
- Boules are thrown underarm, usually with the palm of the hand downwards which allows backspin to be put on the boule giving greater control.
- Each team should have suitable measuring equipment. In most cases a tape measure is adequate but callipers or other measuring devices may be needed.
Equipment specifications 
Boules must be made of metal. Competition boules must meet the following specifications:
- bear engravings indicating the manufacturer's name and the weight of the boule.
- have a diameter between 70.5 and 80 mm.
- have a weight between 650 and 800 g.
- not be filled with sand or lead, or be tampered with in any way
In addition, a boule may bear an engraving of the player's first name or initials.
Choice of boule 
The diameter of the boule is chosen based on the size of the player's hand. The weight and hardness of the boule depends on the player's preference and playing style. "Pointers" tend to choose heavier and harder boules, while "shooters" often select lighter and softer boules.
Leisure boules 
These boules do not meet competition standards but are often used for "backyard" games. They are designed to suit all ages and sexes, and can be made of metal, plastic or wood (for play on a beach, for instance).
Competition jacks 
Competition jacks must meet the following specifications:
- made of wood or of synthetic material
- carry the maker's mark and have secured confirmation by the F.I.P.J.P. that they comply exactly with the relevant specification.
- have a diameter of 30mm (tolerance + or - 1mm).
Playing area 
A flat, open space where pétanque is played is called a terrain.
Any relatively flat, open space can be used as a terrain. In France, terrains are frequently natural terrains, typically the village square, areas in parks, etc. Sandy beaches are not suitable, although light plastic boules are sometimes used to adapt the game for the beach. The terrain may be irregular and interrupted by obstacles such as trees, and the surface is likely to be uneven, with some areas hard and smooth and others rough and stony. It is for this reason that pétanque is a throwing game, rather than a rolling game like bocce or bowling.
If a terrain is large enough, it may be divided into marked-off areas called pistes so that separate games may be carried on simultaneously on the same terrain. A typical piste is marked off (permanently or temporarily) using nails and string, and is square or rectangular in shape. For tournament play a piste is a rectangle at least 4 metres wide and 15 metres long.
When an area is constructed specifically as a terrain, the playing surface is typically loose gravel, decomposed granite, brick grog or crushed sea shell. There is no requirement for backboards or sideboards (as in bocce), but dedicated terrains are often enclosed in boards or some other structural barrier.
Pétanque terminology varies across languages and countries and the distinction between terrain and piste is sometimes blurred. For piste, the FIPJP International Rules use the French word terrain, which the FPUSA translates as the English word court and some British versions translate as lane.
Some pétanque proponents object to the use of the word court because they feel that it suggests something false and derogatory, namely that routine neighbourhood play requires the construction of an expensive dedicated facility (a pétanque court) in the same way that bocce does. As the Pétanque America website puts it:
Actually the word “court” is a misnomer. We use it here because many people search for that term. Pétanque is by nature a game one can play without a setup, sort of like frisbee.
In the USA, proponents of pétanque such a 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.
A successful pétanque team has players who are skilled at shooting as well as players who only point. For obvious reasons, the pointer or pointers play first – the shooter or shooters are held in reserve in case the opponents place well. In placing, a boule in front of the jack has much higher value than one at the same distance behind the jack, because intentional or accidental pushing of a front boule generally improves its position. At every play after the very first boule has been placed, the team whose turn it is must decide whether to point or shoot. Factors that count in that decision include:
- How close to the jack the opponents' best boule is,
- The state of the terrain (an expert pointer can practically guarantee to place within about 15 cm if the terrain is well tended, not so if it's rocky or uneven), and
- How many boules each team has yet to play.
A team captain, in an idealized game, requires his pointer to place a boule reasonably close in approach to the jack (paradoxically, in competition, the first pointer sometimes aims not to get so close to the jack that the opponents will inevitably shoot their boule immediately). They then visualize an imaginary circle with the jack as its centre and the jack-boule distance as radius and defend that circle by any legitimate means.
Glossary of special terms 
Like any sport, petanque has its own special vocabulary. The following are a list of common phrases with explanations.
- To have the point
- To have one or more boules placed closer to the jack than those of the opponent(s).
- The phrase "We're holding" or "They're holding" is another way of expressing the above situation regarding having the point.
- To throw one's boule with the intent of stopping near the jack (also known as placing).
- To throw one's boule at one of the opponent's boules to knock it out of play. This is often done when the opponent has pointed his/her boule very close to the jack.
- To throw one's boule in a high arc so that when it lands it only rolls minimally.
- A special feat in which the shooter knocks the opponent's boule out while leaving his boule at or very near the point of impact (pronounced car-o).
- To fanny (mettre fanny in French)
- To beat one's opponents 13 to 0. The figure of a bare-bottomed lass named Fanny is ubiquitous in Provence wherever pétanque is played. It is traditional that when a player loses 13 to 0 it is said that “il est fanny” (he's fanny) or “il a fait fanny” (he made fanny), and that he has to kiss the bottom of a girl called Fanny. Since there is rarely an obliging Fanny's behind handy, there is usually a substitute picture, woodcarving or pottery so that Fanny’s bottom is available. More often, the team which made "fanny" has to offer a beverage to the winning team (see the French popular expression "Fanny paie à boire !").
- To do the bec (faire le bec, meaning "to give a light kiss")
- Targeting one of your boules already in play and knocking it toward the jack.
- To technical fanny
- To beat one's opponents by scoring 13 consecutive points without the opposition scoring anymore but having already scored. For example a team could score 12 points and the opposition could then score all 13 points and win the game with a technical fanny.
- Game on the ground
- A situation in which one team has finished throwing all of its boules and “has the point”. When "the game is on the ground" for a team, that team will win the game unless their opponents, who still have boules to throw, are able to change the situation.
Image gallery 
Playing pétanque in the late afternoon at Aigues-Mortes
Men playing pétanque next to the Fort St. Louis in Toulon.
The 2006 Pétanque World Championship in Grenoble, France
Action on the Pétanque field in Batignolles.
See also 
- Kubb, a Swedish throwing game
- Bolas criollas
- Pétanque World Championships
- Mondial la Marseillaise de pétanque
- Marco Foyot, Alain Dupuy, Louis Almas, Pétanque - Technique, Tactique, Etrainement. Robert Laffont, 1984.
- Marco Foyot, Alain Dupuy, Louis Dalmas, Pétanque - Technique, Tactique, Entrainement, Robert Laffont, 1984.
- Marco Foyo,op. cit. pg. 16
- See Marco Foyot, Pétanque. The French version of the Wikipedia says his name was Jules Hugues, known as 'Le Noir,' but gives no citation. Another version mentioned by Foyot says the game was invented by the brother of a famous player who had lost his legs in his accident. Seeing that his brother was unhappy about being unable to play, he invented a variation of the game with the player in one place, and a shorter field.
- History of the FIPJP at the FIPJP web site.
- The rules used in this section are taken from Official Rules of the Game of Petanque, by Mike Pegg et al.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Pétanque|
- FIPJP - Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal is the international governing body for Pétanque. Its web site contains a link to the official rules of Pétanque and a link to a list of its national members.
- FFPJP - Fédération Francais de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal is the governing body for Pétanque in France, and the most important national member of FIPJP.
- FPUSA - Federation of Petanque U.S.A. is the governing body for Pétanque in the United States. It is a member of FIPJP.
- Petanque overview at Petanque in the USA
- Petanque videos at PetanqueTube