BASQUE BOWLING

In Elorrio a form of bowling known in Basque as hiru txirlo is played, the object of which is to knock down three pins with a ball that weighs 2 kg.

Bowling became very popular in Bizkaia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when practically every hamlet and neighbourhood had a bowling alley where players would wager to see who had to pay for their jug of cider or txakoli wine.

This is seen as a golden age for a version of the sport known as pasabolo, which became famous for the challenges and wagers placed between Bizkaia and Cantabria.

 

In all, 15 forms of the sport have been recorded in Bizkaia, with very different levels of popularity, numbers of players and degrees of organisation. The form played in Elorrio is the widespread hiru txirlo. This form of the game has its own inter-provincial federation and stages annual league competitions.

 

The players bowl a ball weighing around 2 kg along the ground. It must touch the starting board then run along the alley without falling into the gutters, and the idea is to knock down three pins. Pins knocked down by other pins still count as points.

 

It is played widely in the eastern part of Bizkaia, from Elorrio to Ondarroa, and in Gipuzkoa throughout the Deba river valley. The three pins are 21 cm tall, and each has its own name in Basque: eskua, zilla (or erdikoa) and guena. The alley measures around 19 m long and the pins are set up 1 m apart.


In Elorrio bowling alleys, known as bolatokis in Basque, can be found in the rural hamlets of Argiñeta and San Lorenzo, where the sport is played as part of the patron saint’s day festivities there. In the case of Argiñeta this is the first week of August and in the case of San Lorenzo is August 10, which means that they usually coincide with the Perseid meteor shower.

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