Pin the tail on the donkey

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An example of the game having been played

Pin the tail on the donkey is a game played by groups of children. The earliest version listed in a catalog of American games compiled by the American Game Collectors Association in 1998, is dated 1899, and attributed to Charles Zimmerling.[1]

It is common at birthday parties and other gatherings. A picture of a donkey with a missing tail is tacked to a wall within easy reach of children.[2] One at a time, each child is blindfolded and handed a paper "tail" with a push pin or thumbtack poked through it. The blindfolded child is then spun around until he or she is disoriented.[2] The child gropes around and tries to pin the tail on the donkey. The player who pins their tail closest to the target, the donkey's rear, wins.[2] The game, a group activity, is generally not competitive; "winning" is only of marginal importance. It is often seen as more entertaining, seeing the children stumble around and try to put their tail at the right place.[3]

The game is also used in child development research.[4]

The game can also be played by teenagers and adults, especially if the "donkey" is replaced with depictions of something or someone else. As a drinking game, the person with the worst tail pinning is awarded one shot of a selected alcohol, to be determined by house rules or the loser in a friendly environment.[3]

Idiomatically, the term can be used derisively for any assigned activity which is pointless or for which a person has been handicapped (blindfolded)[citation needed].

See also[edit]

  • Eeyore, a character who loses his tail and has to have it pinned back on.
  • Fukuwarai, a similar Japanese game
  • Piñata


  1. ^ Archived 2014-06-11 at the Wayback Machine The Game Catalog, 8th Edition, October 1998 - Page 89
  2. ^ a b c Joanna Cole; Stephanie Calmenson; Alan Tiegreen (2004). Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Chronicle Books. pp. 8–9. ISBN 1-58717-230-5.
  3. ^ a b Rodney P. Carlisle: Encyclopedia of Play in Today’s Society, Band 2, SAGE, 2009, P. 483
  4. ^ Kagan, Jerome; J. Steven Reznick; Nancy Snidman; Jane Gibbons; Maureen O. Johnson (December 1988). "Childhood Derivatives of Inhibition and Lack of Inhibition to the Unfamiliar". Childhood Development. Blackwell Publishing. 59 (6): 1580–1589. doi:10.2307/1130672. JSTOR 1130672.