The History of Bowling

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Bowling is as old as Mankind: Recreation and humanity have a very deep connection. Right since time immemorial, human beings have always felt the need to partake in recreational activities. Hunting animals was considered to be a recreational activity for the male of the species. Children of those times engaged in a sport which can be very much likened to the bowling of today.

The earliest known forms of bowling date to the ancient Egyptian Empire and the Roman Empire. In the 1930s, a British anthropologist named Sir Flinders Petrie discovered a collection of objects in a child’s grave that gave indication to be a primitive form of bowling. These articles were traced to belong to the period preceding 3200 B.C which means that bowling is a game which had its origins about 5000 years ago. During the 3rd and the 4th centuries, bowling was a kind of religious ceremony for determination of absence of sin. German parishioners had to roll a ball like object at a pin to avoid performing an act of penance.

The 14th century saw the initial legislations being made against bowling: The earliest known documented legislations against bowling dates to the 14th century English Empire. The game of bowling had become so popular that it was believed that it weaned away the soldiers from archery practice which was essential for national defense. Hence the sport was banned by King Edward III and King Richard II. Thus you can see that bowling has a rich and deep history.

Different types of Bowling and how it is played: Let us see how the game is played. In bowling the player also referred to as “the bowler” rolls or throws a ball towards a target. Bowling is primarily of two types. They are “Pin Bowling” which is an indoor sport and “Target Bowling” which is an outdoor sport. In pin bowling the aim is to knock down a set of wooden pins at the end of the lane. In the target variation, the aim is to get the ball as close to the target as possible.

Pin bowling has five different variations.

  • Ten pin bowling: This uses the largest and heaviest of balls and is bowled with a heavy ball with three finger holes. This is very popular in North America.
  • Nine pin bowling: In this variation, the pins are usually attached to strings at the top and the ball does not have any finger holes.
  • Candlepin bowling: This involves using the tallest pins which are thin with matching ends as well as the lightest balls.
  • Duckpin Bowling: This is a variation of the ten pin bowling version with shorter and lighter pins.
  • Five pin bowling: This game is usually played in Canada and uses pins which are heavier than the candle pins but lighter than the duck pins. A handheld ball is used for bowling.

Target bowling is played outdoors, usually on a lawn. Different types of target bowling include Bocce, Latin Bowls, Carpet Bowls, Cherokee marbles, Irish road bowling, Lane/alley bowling, Molkky and Petanque. The basic principles are the same. One has to put the ball as close as possible to the target or the designated slot.

Modern rules were formulated about a century and half back: The modern standardized rules for ten pin bowling were established in New York City by the American Bowling Congress (now referred to as the United States Bowling Congress) on September 9, 1895. The scoring system was changed from the maximum of 200 points for 20 balls to 300 for 10 balls. The ball weight was set at a maximum of 16 lbs and pin distance as 12 inches. Initially the bowling balls were made up of Lignum vitae (trade wood) hardwood from the Caribbean which was later on replaced by the Ebonite rubber balls. From 1980 onwards urethane bowling balls are in use.

Even today, bowling is considered to be a popular sport in the United States, Canada, England and other European countries. Though it has not yet attained Olympic status, it had featured in the 1988 Seoul Olympics as a demonstration sport.

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