History of petanque

FRENCH GAMES - petanque and jeu provençal

Petanque history

The famous Place des Lices in St-Tropez in the French Provence (postcard - La Cigogne)

The new plaquette in La Ciotat (Wilhelmus Nanninga)

The old plaquette in La Ciotat (Jac Verheul)

Petanque is the latest branch on the enormous tree of jeu de boules. Probably created in 1907 or 1910 in La Ciotat by Jules le Noir (there are several versions of the birth of petanque, but the version of Jules le Noir is the most probable one). The ancestor of petanque was the game jeu provençal (see further on). Ernest Pitiot organised, some weeks after the birth of the new game, the first tournament and founded in 1945 the French Petanque Federation Fédération Française de Petanque et Jeu Provençal (FFPJP). Till then, petanque and jeu provençal (and the games of boule des berges and boule en bois) formed part of the FFB, the Fédération Française de Boules. The FFB was dominated then by the game of boule lyonnaise with almost 130.000 players in 1945 and there were a lot of quarrels between both sections at that time. At the end of 1945 the FFPJP had about 10.000 members. These days the FFPJP counts more than 450.000 members and worldwide there are more than 600.000 licensed petanque players. Petanque is by far the most practised game of bowls on earth, undoubtedly because of the simplicity of its rules.

Measuring (Jac Verheul)

The name petanque is a derivation of the provençal word ped tanco and it means the feet together on the ground. In contradiction to the game of jeu provençal the player, while playing, should keep his feet together and on the ground. The boules can be delivered either from an erect position, a bending or a squatting position. By the way, petanque is the only game of bowls that is practised in a squatting position!

The pointer: Emile Lovino from Marseille (Jac Verheul)

The playing distance between the circle and the jack is between 6 and 10 m. The size of the metallic boules must be between 7,05 and 8 cm, the weight between 650 and 800 grams. The wooden jack (but in French) has a diameter between 25 and 35 mm.

The shooter: Michel Schatz (or Passo) from Nîmes (Jac Verheul)

For petanque and jeu provençal there are competitions for singles, doubles and triples. In singles each player has three boules, in doubles and triples two boules. It is typical for all French games of boules that a player only throws his boule when the opponent's boule is closer to the jack or but. All boules of one team nearer to the jack than any boule of the opponents counts one point each. Usually all games are up to 13 points.

Petanque tournament in St-Paul-lez-Durance (Fr)(Jac Verheul)

Jeu provençal history

The shooter: André Massoni from Marseille (Jac Verheul)

The game of jeu provençal is the spiritual father of petanque and it is the southern counterpart of the game boule lyonnaise (see further on). The game was created at the end of the 19th century and till now there are still a lot of participants, although the game has been largely overtaken by petanque. The playing distance between the circle and the jack is between 15 and 20 m. While shooting, the shooter has to make three steps and the pointer has to leave the circle and balance on one foot while pointing. In order to hit in a regular way, the shooter has to hit at a maximum distance of 1 m before the object.

The size and the weight of the boules and the jack are the same as in petanque. Jeu provençal and petanque form part of the same French federation. Jeu provençal is especially practised in the southern part of France.


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