Bowling refers to a series of sports or leisure activities in which a player rolls or throws a bowling ball towards a target. In pin bowling variations, the target is usually to knock over pins at the end of a lane. In target variations, the aim is usually to get the ball as close to a mark as possible. The pin version of bowling is often played on a flat wooden or other synthetic surface (can be oiled in different patterns for different techniques), whilst in target bowling, the surface may be grass, gravel or a synthetic surface. The most common types of pin bowling include ten-pin, nine-pin, candlepin, duckpin and five-pin bowling, while in target bowling, bowls, bocce, carpet bowls, pétanque and boules, both indoor and outdoor varieties, are popular. Today, the sport of bowling is enjoyed by 100 million people in more than 90 countries worldwide.
The earliest most primitive forms of bowling can be dated back to Ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire. From records and artifacts in ancient Egypt, going back 3000–5000 years ago, remnants of bowls used at the time were found. Balls, made of husks of corn, covered in material such as leather, and bound with string were made. Other balls, made of porcelain or even plastic, also exist, indicating that these were rolled along the ground, rather than thrown, due to their size and weight. Some of these resemble the modern day jack used in target bowl games of today. Bowls games of different forms are also noted by Herodotus as an invention of the Lydians in Asia Minor. About 2,000 years ago a similar game evolved between Roman legionaries: it entailed tossing stone objects as close as possible to other stone objects (this game became popular with Roman soldiers, and eventually evolved into Italian Bocce, or outdoor bowling).
The first standardized rules for pin bowling were established in New York City, on September 9, 1895. Rules can vary between different types of games.  The oldest surviving bowling lanes in the United States is part of the summer estate of Henry C. Bowen in Woodstock, Connecticut, at Roseland Cottage. The lanes, now part of Historic New England's Roseland Cottage house museum, dates to the construction of the old cottage in 1846. It contains Gothic Revival architectural elements, in keeping with the style of the entire estate.
Rules for target bowls evolved in each of the countries who had adopted the predominantly British based game. In 1905, the International Bowling Board was formed, and it subsequent constitution adopted the Laws of the Scottish Bowling Association. These variations allowed for various regulations at individual country level. The oldest known bowls green for target style bowling is that which is now part of the Southhampton Bowling Club, in southern England. The use of the land as an area for recreational bowling dates back to 1299, and was then known as the "Master's Close".
Today, bowling is enjoyed by ninety-five million people in more than ninety countries worldwide and continues to grow through entertainment media such as: video games for home consoles and handheld devices.
- Ten-pin bowling: largest and heaviest pins, bowled with a large ball with three finger holes, and the most popular size in North America
- See also Introduction to Ten Pin Bowling
- Nine-pin bowling: pins usually attached to strings at the tops, uses a ball without finger holes.
- Candlepin bowling: tallest pins, thin with matching ends, and bowled with the smallest and lightest (at 1.1 kg) handheld ball of any bowling sport.
- Duckpin bowling: short, squat, and bowled with a handheld ball.
- Five-pin bowling: tall, between duckpins and candlepins in diameter with a rubber girdle, bowled with a handheld ball, mostly found in Canada.
Another form of bowling is usually played outdoors on a lawn. At outdoor bowling, the players throw a ball, which is sometimes eccentrically weighted, in an attempt to put it closest to a designated point or slot in the bowling arena. Included in the outdoor category:
Bowling is an anaerobic type of physical exercise, similar to walking with free weights. Bowling helps in burning calories and works muscle groups not usually exercised. The flexing and stretching in bowling works tendons, joints, ligaments, and muscles in the arms and promotes weight loss. While most sports are not for elderly people, it is possible to practice bowling very well at advanced ages.
Technological innovation has made bowling accessible to members of the disabled community.
- The IKAN Bowler, a device designed by a quadriplegic engineer named Bill Miller, attaches to a wheelchair and allows the user to control the speed, direction, and timing of the ten pin bowling ball's release. The name comes from the Greek work "ikano", which means "enable".
- For Bowls the sport has introduced a number of innovations to enable people with a disability to participate at all levels of the sport, from social through to Olympic Standards:
- The use of bowling arms and lifters enables bowlers to deliver a bowl minimising the amount of movement required
- Wheelchair and green manufacturers have produced modified wheel tyres and ramps to enable wheelchair athletes to access bowls greens.
- Modified conditions of play as outlined in Disability classification in lawn bowls
In popular culture
Many Dutch Golden Age paintings depicted bowling.
Bowling is often depicted as a group date, teen outing, and blue-collar activity.
The sport has been the subject of a number of "bowling films", which prominently feature the sport of bowling. Examples include:
- 7-10 Split (film) (2007), renamed STRIKE for its USA DVD release in 2009
- Alley Cats Strike, a 2000 Disney Channel Original Movie
- The Big Lebowski (1998), bowling played a pivotal role in the film and figured prominently in the film's promotional advertisements.
- Blackball – a 2003 comedy film about a young bowls player, based upon Griff Sanders.
- Crackerjack – a 2002 Australian comedy film about a wisecracking layabout who joins a lawn bowls club in order to be allowed to use a free parking spot but is forced to play bowls with the much older crowd when the club enters financial difficulty.
- Dreamer (1979 film), a direct-to-video film
- The Golden Years (film), a 1960 sponsored film that promoted bowling as a family sport
- Kingpin (film), a 1996 slapstick comedy film
- Spare Me (film), a 1992 "bowling noir" film
- A League of Ordinary Gentlemen, a documentary film about 10-pin bowling that was released on DVD on March 21, 2006 and stars four PBA Tour players
- Strikes and Spares (1934), a sports shorts film that was nominated for a 1934 Academy Award for Best Short Subject (novelty)
- Jackass 2
Bowling is an important theme in other films, as well.
- Bowling for Columbine (2002), Michael Moore's documentary addressing the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, features multiple bowling themes.
- There Will Be Blood (2007), in which anti-hero Daniel Plainview's private bowling alley serves as the setting for the film's last scene.
- The Next Karate Kid (1994), in which Mr. Miyagi referred to a variant of bowling called "Zen Bowling" where players would bowl with their eyes closed.
- The Bowling Alley Cat is a 1942 one-reel animated cartoon and is the 7th Tom and Jerry short. It was produced in Technicolor and released to theatres on July 18, 1942 by Metro-Goldwyn Mayer and reissued for re-release in 1948.
- Several game shows have centered around bowling:
- Many local television stations produced Bowling for Dollars as part of a franchise, mainly in the 1970s.
- Nick at Nite had a one-time special entitled King Pins, which featured contestants bowling in unusual ways. Its bonus round featured the winning couple attempting to knock down six giant pins with a likewise oversized ball.
- Comedy Central produced a televised version of a radio show, Let's Bowl, which featured two contestants (usually family members) settling some sort of dispute between each other and competing for nearly worthless prizes, with the hosting and modeling abilities of the cast likewise played for laughs.
- On The Hub's game show Family Game Night with Todd Newton, there is a game called Yahtzee Bowling where families play Yahtzee with a bowling twist.
- "King of Queens" Season 2 Episode 11, "Sparing Carrie", Doug has to decide whether winning bowling games is more important than hurting his wife, Carrie's feelings.
- In The Honeymooners and Jackie Gleason Show, bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason) and sewer worker Ed "Lillywhite" Norton (Art Carney) belonged to a fraternal organization called the Raccoon Lodge and regularly bowled on its team, "The Hurricanes", at the Acme Bowling Alley.
- In The Flintstones (which imitated and spoofed The Honeymooners and The Jackie Gleason Show), "bronto" crane operator Fred Flintstone and his next-door neighbor and sidekick, Barney Rubble, often bowl. Fred is an avid bowler who has won championships based on his incredible bowling skills. A number of episodes address Fred and Barney's bowling adventures, such as:
- In "Wilma's Vanishing Money" (1962-01-26), Fred steals Wilma's money to buy a bowling ball, while Wilma thinks it's a burglar who stole it. She, meanwhile, was planning to use the money to buy Fred that ball he wanted for his birthday.
- In "Bowling Ballet (aka Rush-in Ballet)" (1962-10-05), Fred goes so far as to take ballet lessons in order to improve his game, which leads to his nickname "Twinkletoes". The nickname of "Twinkletoes" stuck with him when Fred attended a local college and became eligible to play on their football team, and it became his call sign.
- In "Seeing Doubles" (1965-12-17), Fred and Barney have a bowling game on Friday night, the night that they are to take Wilma and Betty out to dinner. After failing to convince the wives to let them go bowling, The Great Gazoo makes two robots that look like Fred and Barney. The robots can only say "yes" and "no" and they take the wives to dinner while Fred and Barney go bowling. The robotic impersonators, however, take Wilma and Betty to the most expensive restaurant in town and cause havoc the entire night. It's up to Fred and Barney to round them up and bring them back to Gazoo in order for them to be snapped out.
- In episode 86-4.14 of Roseanne, titled "The Bowling Show", Dan Conner (John Goodman) and Arnie Thomas (Tom Arnold) try to bring their bowling team out of last place in their league.
- Bowling featured prominently in Laverne & Shirley; Laverne (Penny Marshall)'s Italian-born father, Frank De Fazio (Phil Foster), runs the Pizza Bowl, a local hang out featuring pizza, beer, and bowling.
- In episode 221 of The Andy Griffith Show, titled "Howard the Bowler" (originally aired September 18, 1967), Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson) fills in on the bowling team and rolls a perfect game.
- Bowling is the main theme in the JDrama The Golden Bowl.
- In episode 29 of Smile PreCure!, titled "The PreCures Are Sucked Into a Game!?", Cure Peace challenged Red Oni to a bowling game. She eventually won because of her lightning skills.
- Bowling is featured in episode 19 of Dokidoki! PreCure called "Betting the Crystals! Jikochu's Game!". In the episode, the Cures challenged Jikochu for the crystals with bowling as the second game. The Selfish Trio also played bowling during the series' run. Ai also played bowling in episode 38 of the series called "Beel's Scheme! Ai Becomes a Jikochu!?".
- The Simpsons episode 89-1.9 episode, "Life on the Fast Lane," has Marge Simpson taking up the sport in a fit of pique when her husband, Homer, thoughtlessly gave her a bowling ball engraved in his own name for a birthday present. In doing so, she finds herself attracted to an amorous player and finds her marriage in jeopardy.
- One episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood features Fred Rogers and Mr. McFeely playing the game.
- In episode 1.7 of The Golden Girls, ("The Competition"), Dorothy (Bea Arthur) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan) bowl a game against Rose (Betty White) and Sophia (Estelle Getty). If Sophia and Rose win, Dorothy will allow Sophia to go back to Sicily for a visit with an old beau; if Dorothy and Blanche win, Sophia will give Dorothy a pair of antique earrings.
- In Japan, Bowling Revolution P-League is an 18-player tournament, played in rounds of three bowlers and aired on a weekly basis.
In video games
- 10 Pin Bowling
- 101-in-1 Sports Megamix
- 101-in-1 Sports Party Megamix
- 4-Player Bowling Alley is a 4-player, monochrome, ten-pin bowling arcade game released by Midway Games in 1979. This featured the "Flash".
- Alley Master is a ten-pin bowling arcade game released by Cinematronics in 1986.
- Bowling is an Atari 2600 video game released in 1979.
- Crazy Taxi
- Dynamite Bowl is a 5-player bowling game released for the Nintendo Family Computer, the MSX computer system, and for the NEC PC-8801 in 1987.
- Elf Bowling
- Game & Wario
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Gutterball 2
- Hasbro Family Game Night 4: The Game Show
- High Velocity Bowling
- Kinect Sports
- Kinect Sports Rivals
- League Bowling
- Mario Party
- Mario Party 2
- Mario Party 8
- Mario Party 9
- Mario Party Advance
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star
- PlayStation Home
- Polar Bowler
- Saints & Sinners Bowling
- Silver Strike Bowling
- Sonic Adventure
- Sports Champions 2
- Super Mario Galaxy 2
- Super Monkey Ball
- Super Monkey Ball 2
- Tekken Tag Tournament
- Ten Pin Alley
- Wii Sports
- Wii Sports Club
- Wii Sports Resort
- Yakuza 3
- Yakuza 4
- Open bowling
- Glossary of bowling
- Automatic scorer
- Battle of the Bowling Alley, so named for the narrow valley north of Taegu, South Korea (dubbed the "Bowling Alley"), where United Nations forces defeated North Korean forces early in the Korean War
- Fédération Internationale des Quilleurs (FIQ), the top international bowling organization
- New Zealand Indoor Bowls
- Skee ball — a game that plays similar to bowling
- Skittles, the sport from which alley-based bowling originated
- Bowls, Lawn Bowling
- United States Bowling Conference
- Crystal-Mark (2010). Laws of the Sport of Bowls. World Bowls Ltd. p. 9.
- Help with Bowling: The History and Origins of Bowling
- Pretsell, James M. (1908). The Game of Bowls Past and Present. Oliver & Boyd. p. 1.
- Pretsell 1908, p. 2.
- Bowling in ancient Rome
- Springdale USBC Site
- "Roseland Cottage — Historic New England". Historicnewengland.org. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
- Munro, J.P. (1951). Bowls Encyclopedia. Melbourne Australia: Wilke & Co. p. 167.
- Linney, E.J. (1933). A History of the Game of Bowls. Edingburgh Press. p. 22.
- Fit4FunKids site
- AMF Bowling Pinbusters! for Nokia N-Gage
- Calorie-counter.net - How to Lose Weight by Bowling
- "Ability Magazine: IKAN Bowler’’". Retrieved 2012-04-06.
- "From bowling green to silver screen". BBC News. 2003-08-28. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
- Stinnett, Chuck. "Rango is latest reminder that animated films are thriving". Evansville Courier & Press, March 8, 2011
- "The Flintstones Frequently Asked Questions List". Retrieved 2010-07-20.
- Howard, the Bowler at the Internet Movie Database
- "Golden Bowl". jdorama.com. Retrieved 2013-07-16.