How Old Is the Game of Bowling?
Bowling is an ancient sport. The Egyptians played a game similar to bowling about seven thousand years ago by rolling stone balls against pieces of stone set up as pins much like modern tenpins! Various forms of bowling became popular in European countries during the Middle Ages.
There is even evidence that during the Stone Age there was some sort of bowling game in which large pebbles and rocks were rolled at pointed stones which served as pins. As far as written records are concerned, they indicate that bowling may have originated in the monasteries of Europe about seven hundred years ago as part of a religious ritual.
The peasants of those days usually carried a club, even when visiting a church. It is said that the priests, in order to dramatize a point, told the people that the clubs could stand for the devil, or evil. The club was stood in a corner, and the peasant rolled a large stone or ball at it.
If he hit the ball he was praised, if he failed he was told to lead a better life. The priests became intrigued with the idea of hitting the club, which was called a “kegel”. ‘This explains why bowlers are called “keglers”. They tried it themselves and a game was born.
Later on the nobility and landed gentry took it up. By the Middle Ages, bowling was a universal and a very popular game in Germany.
As the game spread to England, the people became equally excited about the new game. In fact, it was so popular that in 1366, Edward III passed a law forbidding the people to play it because he was afraid that it left them no time to practice archery which was important for war.
But by the time of Henry VIII the game was so established that in 1530 the king ordered bowling alleys added to his residence! The early Dutch settlers of New York brought the game of nine pins to America and played it on bowling green in New York.
The Dutch called the game “skittles.” During the 1800s, heavy gambling brought charges of dishonesty, and the Connecticut Legislature passed a law banning the popular nine-pin game. Bowlers evaded this law by adding a pin, and started the ten-pin game we play today.