The game centers on an articulated plastic model of a donkey named "Roo" (or "Buckaroo"). The mule begins the game standing on all four feet, with a blanket on its back. Players take turns placing various items onto the mule's back without causing the mule to buck up on its front legs, throwing off all the accumulated items (the toy has a spring mechanism that is triggered by significant vibration). 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 toy 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.
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 articulation points on which the subsequent items are hung. These other items may be placed in any order.
It was originally released in 1970 by Ideal Toy Company using a white mule, this has now been replaced with a brown one.
In 2006, Buckaroo! was considered dangerous, due to the objects getting flung off 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 favorite 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.
- In the BBC 3 series Bluestone 42, when Mac and Rocket are stacking assorted items on a sleeping teammate, Rocket mentions his fondness for the game.