Last updated

Bocce players scoring.jpg
Bocce players scoring a match, 2005
Highest governing body Fédération Internationale de Boules
First playedAncient Rome
Team membersIndividual
Type Boules
EquipmentBocce (balls) and pallino (jack)
Olympic No
Paralympic No
World Games No
An Argentine family playing bocce in San Vicente, Buenos Aires, c. 1902 Bochas oliver family.jpg
An Argentine family playing bocce in San Vicente, Buenos Aires, c. 1902
Bocce play in Cape Coral, Florida, US in 2007 Bocce Play Cape Coral FL-2007.JPG
Bocce play in Cape Coral, Florida, US in 2007
Bocce being played

Bocce ( /ˈbɒi/ , [1] [2] or /ˈbɒ/ , [3] Italian:  [ˈbɔttʃe] ), sometimes anglicized as bocce ball, [4] bocci [5] or boccie, [1] is a ball sport belonging to the boules family, closely related to British bowls and French pétanque , with a common ancestry from ancient games played in the Roman Empire. Developed into its present form in Italy, bocce is played around Europe and also in other areas with Italian immigrants, including Australia, North America, and South America, principally Argentina and Rio Grande do Sul. Initially played only by the Italian immigrants, the game has slowly become more popular with their descendants and more broadly.



Bocce is closely related to British bowls and French pétanque, all having developed from games played in the Roman Empire. It was developed into its present form in Italy [6] (where it is called bocce, the plural of the Italian word boccia which means 'to bowl' in the sport sense), [7] it is played around Europe and also in regions to which Italians have migrated, such as Australia, North America, and South America (where it is known as bochas, or bolas criollas ('Criollo balls') in Venezuela, bocha in Brazil). The popularity of the game spread first amongst descendants of Italian migrants but has slowly spread into the wider community. The accessibility of bocce to people of all ages and abilities has seen it grow in popularity among Special Olympics programmes globally and it is now the third most played sport among Special Olympics athletes. [8]

Geographical spread

The sport is also very popular on the eastern side of the Adriatic, especially in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the sport is known in Serbo-Croatian as boćanje ('playing boće') or balote (colloquially also bućanje). [9] [10] [11] In Slovenia the sport is known as balinanje [12] or colloquially 'playing boče', or bale (from Italian bocce and Venetian bałe, meaning 'balls'). [13] There are numerous bocce leagues in the United States. Most have been founded by Italian Americans but contain members of all groups.

Rules and play

Bocce is traditionally played on natural soil and asphalt courts up to 27.5 metres (90 ft) in length and 2.5 to 4 metres (8.2 to 13.1 ft) wide. [14] While the court walls are traditionally made of wood or stone, many social leagues and Special Olympics programs now use inflatable 'Packabocce' PVC courts due to their portability and ease of storage. [15] [16] Bocce balls can be made of wood (traditional), metal, [14] baked clay, or various kinds of plastic. Unlike lawn bowls, bocce balls are spherical and have no inbuilt bias.

A game can be conducted between two players, or two teams of two, three, or four. A match is started by a randomly chosen side being given the opportunity to throw a smaller ball, the jack (called a boccino ('little bocce') or pallino ('bullet' or 'little ball') in Italian, depending on local custom), from one end of the court into a zone 5 metres (16 ft) in length, ending 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) from the far end of the court. If the first team misses twice, the other team is awarded the opportunity to place the jack anywhere they choose within the prescribed zone. [6] Casual play is common in reasonably flat areas of parks and yards lacking a Bocce court, but players should agree to the minimum and maximum distance the jack may be thrown before play begins.

The side that first attempted to place the jack is given the opportunity to bowl first. Once the first bowl has taken place, the other side has the opportunity to bowl. From then on, the side which does not have the ball closest to the jack has a chance to bowl, up until one side or the other has used their four balls. At that point, the other side bowls its remaining balls. The object of the game is for a team to get as many of its balls as possible closer to the target ball (jack, boccino, pallino) than the opposing team. The team with the closest ball to the jack is the only team that can score points in any frame. The scoring team receives one point for each of their balls that is closer to the jack than the closest ball of the other team. The length of a game varies by region but is typically from 7 to 13 points. [17] [6]

Players are permitted to throw the ball in the air using an underarm action. This is generally used to knock either the jack or another ball away to attain a more favorable position. Tactics can get quite complex when players have sufficient control over the ball to throw or roll it accurately. [6]


Bocce volo

A variation called bocce volo uses a metal ball, which is thrown overhand (palm down), after a run-up to the throwing line. In that latter respect, it is similar to the French boules game jeu provençal also known as boule lyonnaise. A French variant of the game is called pétanque , and (lacking the run-up) is more similar in some respects to traditional bocce. [18]


Australian boccia team members Australian Boccia team members.jpg
Australian boccia team members

Another development, for persons with disabilities, is called boccia. It is a shorter-range game, played with leather balls on an indoor, smooth surface. Boccia was first introduced to the Paralympics at the 1984 New York/Stoke Mandeville Summer Games, and is one of the only two Paralympic sports that do not have an Olympic counterpart (the other being goalball). [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bowls Sport involving rolling biased balls so that they stop closest to a smaller ball

Bowls, or lawn bowls, is a sport in which the objective is to roll biased balls so that they stop close to a smaller ball called a "jack" or "kitty". It is played on a bowling green, which may be flat or convex or uneven. It is normally played outdoors and the outdoor surface is either natural grass, artificial turf or cotula.

Pétanque Team bowls sport where the boule is thrown, not rolled

Pétanque is a sport that falls into the category of boules sports, along with raffa, bocce, boule lyonnaise, lawn bowls and crown green bowling. In all of these sports, players or teams play their boules/balls towards a target ball.


Boules is a collective name for a wide range of games similar to bowls and bocce in which the objective is to throw or roll heavy balls as close as possible to a small target ball, called the jack in English.


Boccia is a precision ball sport, similar to bocce, and related to bowls and pétanque. The name "boccia" is derived from the Latin word for "boss" – bottia. The sport is contested at local, national and international levels, by athletes with severe physical disabilities. It was originally designed to be played by people with cerebral palsy but now includes athletes with other severe disabilities affecting motor skills. In 1984, it became a Paralympic sport and in 2020 has 75 national sport organizations countries worldwide. Boccia is governed by the Boccia International Sports Federation (BISFed) and is one of only two Paralympic sports that have no counterpart in the Olympic program.

Lawn bowls at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games

Lawn Bowls at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games took place in the Hidden Vale Sports Club in Angeles City, Philippines.

Pétanque at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games

Pétanque at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games took place in the Hidden Vale Sports Club in Angeles City, Philippines.

Bolas criollas is a traditional team sport from Venezuela, very popular in the Llanos and most rural regions. It is one of the most representative icons of Llanero culture. Its origins can be traced back to traditional European boules sports, such as bocce and pétanque.

Lawn game

A lawn game is an outdoor game that can be played on a lawn. Many types and variations of lawn games exist, which includes games that use balls and the throwing of objects as their primary means of gameplay. Some lawn games are historical in nature, having been devised and played in different forms for centuries. Some lawn games are traditionally played on a pitch. Some companies produce and market lawn games for home use in a front or backyard.

Basque bowls Basque variants of bowling games.

Basque bowls, is one of the few Basque rural sports which do not originate in an activity related to rural or marine work. It has a number of other names too and is played in a bolatoki or bolaleku "bowls place" which often consists of a playing area in the open, an open sided structure with a low roof or a playing area located inside a colonnaded hallway.

<i>Jeu provençal</i>

Jeu provençal is a French form of boules.

Bowling Class of sports in which a player rolls a bowling ball towards a target

Bowling is a target sport and recreational activity in which a player rolls a ball toward pins or another target. The term bowling usually refers to pin bowling, though in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries, bowling could also refer to target bowling, such as lawn bowls.

Ground billiards Family of European lawn games

Ground billiards is a modern term for a family of medieval European lawn games, the original names of which are mostly unknown, played with a long-handled mallet, wooden balls, a hoop, and an upright skittle or pin. The game, which at least three cue-sports historians call "the original game of billiards", developed into a variety of modern outdoor and indoor games and sports such as croquet, pool, snooker, and carom billiards. Its relationship to games played on larger fields, such as hockey, golf, and bat-and-ball games, is more speculative. As a broader classification, the term is sometimes applied to games dating back to classical antiquity that are attested via difficult-to-interpret ancient artworks and rare surviving gaming artifacts.

Boule bretonne is a sport popular in Brittany, France, similar to boule lyonnaise and to a lesser extent, pétanque. The method of playing varies widely among those that play it.

BC1 is a Paralympic boccia classification. The class is open to people with several different types of disabilities, including cerebral palsy. BC1 players have events open to them in boccia on the Paralympic Games program.

BC3 is a Paralympic boccia classification. The class is open to people with several different types of disabilities, including cerebral palsy. BC3 players have events open to them in boccia on the Paralympic Games program.

Bocce volo, or boule lyonnaise, is a boules-type game.

Throwing sports

Throwing sports, or throwing games, are physical, human competitions where the outcome is measured by a player's ability to throw an object.

Raffa, is a specialty, both male and female, of boules. It is governed by Confederazione Boccistica Internazionale (CBI).


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  2. "boccie". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  3. "bocce". Lexico UK Dictionary. Oxford University Press . Retrieved 9 July 2019.
  4. E.g.: Brown, Jennifer (2 August 2019). "In Denver, a binge drinking capital, the sober curious movement is gaining popularity". The Colorado Sun . Denver: Civil . Retrieved 7 August 2019. strangers played bocce ball on a June night
  5. "bocci". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2019 via
  6. 1 2 3 4 Malta and Gozo.
  7. "boccia". Collins Italian–English. Retrieved 8 November 2012 via
  8. "Special Olympics bocce sport profile". Special Olympics International. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  9. "Hrvatski boćarski savez - HBS".
  10. Croatian Bocce Federation
  11. "BiH Bocce Association". Archived from the original on 29 May 2009. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  12. "Bocce Association of Slovenia". Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  13. "Slovene Ethnographic Museum". Archived from the original on 22 June 2013. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  14. 1 2 "Bocce Volo - Rules - Ch. 1".
  15. Ussery, Peggy. "Bocce ball newest sport for Dothan's Special Olympians". Dothan Eagle. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  16. "Oddball Sports - The Best Pop-Up Bocce Settings of All-Time". Retrieved 23 July 2020.
  17. "Bocce Volo - Rules - Ch. 2".
  18. Petanque vs. Bocce at Petanque America
  19. "Boccia". International Paralympic Committee . Retrieved 12 March 2018.