World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0004305591
Reproduction Date:

Title: Cup-and-ball  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kendama, Sports entertainment, Games of physical skill, Mercado de Sonora, Michoacán handcrafts and folk art
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


French bilboquet
Age range 2+
Playing time About 45 seconds to a few minutes per round
Random chance Low
Skill(s) required Hand-eye coordination

Cup-and-ball (or ball in a cup) or ring and pin is a traditional children's toy. It is generally a wooden handle, to which a small ball is attached by a string, and which has one or two cups, or a spike, upon which the player tries to catch the ball. It is popular in Spanish-speaking countries, where it is called by a wide number of names (particularly boliche), and was historically popular in France as the bilboquet. A variant with two cups and a spike called kendama is very popular in Japan and has spread globally in popularity.


  • History 1
    • Americas 1.1
    • France 1.2
    • Iberian world 1.3
    • England 1.4
    • Japan 1.5
  • Gameplay 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4


The origins of the game are obscure, though variants have been found throughout the world, and the toy may have been invented independently in multiple places, or spread via international commerce.


In North America, the game was both a child's toy and a gambling mechanism for adults, and involved catching a ring rather than a ball. In some native American tribes it was even a courtship device, where suitors would challenge the objects of their interest to a polite game of ring and pin. The Mohave variant of the game included up to 17 extra rings attached to the cord, and game scoring involved differing point values assigned to different rings.[1] Other variants include those played by the Inuit of what is now Labrador, with a rabbit's skull in place of the ball, with extra holes bored into it, which had to be caught on the handle like a skewer; and those that used balls of grass or animal hair.[1] Ring and pin games in general were known as ajagak, ayagak, ajaquktuk in Inuit dialects.[2]


The cup-and-ball is noted in France as early as the sixteenth century.[1] The game was played by King Henry III of France as historical records note, though his playing was considered evidence of his mental instability.[3] After his death, the game went out of fashion, and for a century the game was only remembered by a small number of enthusiasts such as the Marquis de Biévre.[4]

The game had its golden age during the reign of Louis XV — among the upper classes people owned baleros made of ivory. Actors also sometimes appeared with them in scenes. The game was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. Jean-Jacques Rousseau mentions the game early in his Confessions when stating his reservations about idle talk and hands, saying "If ever I went back into society I should carry a cup-and-ball in my pocket, and play with it all day long to excuse myself from speaking when I had nothing to say."[5]

Iberian world

The game is very popular in the Spanish and Portuguese diaspora, often known as boliche. The name varies across many countries — in El Salvador and Guatemala it is called capirucho; in Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, and Mexico it is called balero; in Spain it is boliche; in Portugal and Brazil it is called bilboquê; in Chile it is emboque; in Colombia it is called coca; and in Venezuela the game is called perinola.[6]

In 1960, American lexicographer Charles Keilus (1919-1997) documented the term zingo paya for a cup-and-ball game in Tijuana, Mexico, and formed the Zingo Paya Society in Los Angeles to promote the toy and its collection.[7]


This game was also popular in England during the early 19th century, as Jane Austen is reputed to have excelled while entertaining her brother's son in a game called bilbocatch.


The game of kendama is believed to have arrived in Japan in the 18th century, and the game underwent significant modernization and standardization in the early 20th century, becoming internationally popular in the 21st century.


The main goal of the game is to get the ball into the cup. While the concept is very easy, mastering the game sometimes requires many hours of practice. To play, the player holds the cup by the handle and lets the ball hang freely. The player then tosses the ball upward by jerking the arm holding the toy, attempting to catch the ball in the cup. If they succeed at getting the ball in the cup, they get one point. They then do it again and again to see how many points they can get in a row. If the person misses, they then have to start over with zero points.

There are several styles of gameplay in the Latin world such as la simple, la doble, la vertical, la mariquita, la puñalada, and la porteña. Some tricks that can be done are capirucho, por atrás, and media vuelta.[6]

See also

  • Kendama — a Japanese variant of the game.


  1. ^ a b c Andrew Leibs (2004). Sports and Games of the Renaissance. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 84,147–148.  
  2. ^ Kendall Blanchard (1 January 1995). The Anthropology of Sport: An Introduction. ABC-CLIO. pp. 148–.  
  3. ^ Martha Walker Freer (1888). Henry III, King of France and Poland: His Court and Times. From Numerous Unpublished Sources, Including Ms. Documents in the Bibliotheque Impériale, and the Archives of France and Italy, Etc. Dodd, Mead and Company. p. 10.  - "it is lamentable to read of the pitiful imbecility which could induce the king, the day following his indignant protest, to sally forth from the Louvre at the head of a disorderly troop, and to parade the streets of the capital playing with a cup-and-ball.
  4. ^ The Strand Magazine. G. Newnes. 1907. p. 464. 
  5. ^ Rousseau, John Jacques. The Confessions of J. J. Rousseau. Project Gutenberg: Privately Printed for the Members of the Aldus Society London, 1903. Retrieved 18 October 2014. 
  6. ^ a b Civila. "El balero" (in Spanish). Open Publishing. Retrieved 2008-09-03. 
  7. ^ The Zingo Paya Society
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.