Petanque has its origin in a town called La Ciotat near Marseilles. In this game, the players hurl the metal balls and put it as close as they can to a small wooden ball called a ‘cochonnet’ or ‘jack’. Boules is played on dirt, gravel, grass and other surfaces and sandy beaches are avoided. Around 17 million people engage in the game of Petanque in France. The Federation Francaise de Petanque et Jeu Provencal (FFPJP) is the fourth largest sporting federation in France. Petanque sport, a competitive form of Petanque is played by licensed players.The International Petanque Federation was founded in the year 1958, in Marseilles. Currently it has 600,000 members in 52 countries. In 1959, the first World Championships were organized. Most recently the championship was held in Pattaya.
Boules is played in teams and there can be three variants with one, two and three players each and they are given three, three and two boules respectively. Made of metal the ‘boules’ weigh between 650g to 800g and the diameter is between 70.5mm to 80mm. The ‘jack’ in Boules is made of wood or synthetic material and its diameter is between 25mm to 35mm. Boules is played in a playing area that is 15 meters long and 4 meters wide. The team that begins the game is decided by a toss. The player of the team that has won the toss then draws a circle in the playing field, the diameter of which ranges from 35 to 50 cm. The ‘jack’ is hurled by the player to a distance between 6 to 10 meters from the starting circle. Then, the player tries to throw the ‘boule’ as close as he can to the jack. The feet of the players must be inside the circle while playing. After a team finishes its turn by throwing all the boules the next team takes over. Boules, when played upto 13 points, are considered a complete game.
‘Leisure Boules’ is the non-competitive variant of the game. The boules are made of plastic or wood and are played by all ages. They are played during leisure and are referred to as ‘backyard games’.
‘Boule Lyonnaise’ is a similar kind of sport but it originated from Lyon. The game came into existence in the 18th century. The French Federation of Bowls came into existence in the year 1942. It is slightly different from Petanque in terms of the play area and the balls used. The play area is a 27.50 meters long and 2.5 to 4 meters wide. The weight of the balls is below 1.3 kg and their diameter ranges from 9 to 11 centimeters.
‘Extreme Boule’ another variant of the game emerged with the changing times in the recent past. It is played on a big field. Boules is played on a gravel soccer field in it and the area is 40 x 60 meters. The participants have to throw the boule as long as 40 or 50 meters. This makes it an extreme sport. The increase in the number of countries, involved in the sport, stands as a proof of its popularity.