Historical background

The origin of the nine pin skittle game is still unknown. It used to be played in the county of Béarn in the 15th and 16th centuries and it became popular in the whole South West of France in the 19th century.
It was brought to America by French emigrants.
The first important nine pin skittle competition took place in Dax in 1898 and other competitions followed in the South West of France.
The French nine pin skittle federation was created in Orthez (Atlantic Pyrenees) in 1948.
It is now part of the F.F.S.Q. (the French Skittle Federation), now called the F.F.B.S.Q. (the French Skittle and Bowling Federation).
It has about 650 members.

Here are the different shapes of skittles from 1882 to 1910 :


The court

It is an indoor game which is played on a hard-packed surface.
The skittles are displayed on a square court, each resting on a round piece of wood called "pitere" or "pitet", 2,20 m far from each other.
A skittle measures about 96 cm and weighs 3 kg. It is made of beech.
The bowl weighs about 6 kg and has a 30 cm diameter; it is made of walnut.


The game itself

Each player throws a skittle called "quille de main" together with a bowl, according to the diagram below.
He must hit another skittle, called 'le plomb' with a bowl.
Once he has completed the twelve figures, he counts the skittles he has knocked down.
Rue droite
For example : first game :"rue droite"
First game : Rue droite The player stands in a corner of the court in front of the skittle called "quille de main" hits it with the bowl and at the same time sends the bowl on to the skittle called "plomb".
The "quille de main" must knock other skittles down. If the bowl hits the "plomb" without going out of the court, the player gets a point ("choix" or "bon"), and can play again or "rebattre" so as to knock down as many skittles as possible (the skittles are set upright after each strike).
After each strike, the player counts the number of skittles he has knocked down.

Player ready to play

Player ready to play rue droite.


Second strike





Second Strike

The other games follow the same rules.
There are seven short games and five long ones.

Seven short games

Five long games

Flash presentation


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