Skittles, to use its normal, modern English name, is one of the oldest and most widespread of games in the world. Its alternative name in English is ninepins and it consists of trying to knock down small pillars with appropriately sized balls. Traditionally, though not necessarily, the two major components are made of wood, though the author of the Merry Milk-Maid of Islington (1860) had a character refer to (s)kittle-pins made of human bones: ‘I’ll cleave you from the skull to the twist, and make nine skittles of thy bones’. 1 Having said that, there are considerable variations to the game: the winner may be the player or team which knocks down the most skittles or the one who knocks down the most having first struck a particular skittle (the ‘kingpin’) or the one who knocks them all down using the fewest balls or the one who survives for the longest period without missing three times. All kinds of surfaces, distances and materials can be used in skittles and there is even a version, dominant in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire in England, in which balls are replaced by fat discs called ‘cheeses’ which have to be hurled rather than rolled at the pins. The game has an elemental quality and the question of whether we should call it a sport as well as a game is a complex one, though at first sight it would seem that skittles lacks many of the meanings and institutions of a modern sport, in classifications such as Guttmann’s seven-fold classification of the characteristics of modern sports. 2 Where some of those characteristics – records, for instance – in terms of accumulated scores, might be acknowledged, this would be in oral form, not documented in any authoritative way by a bureaucracy, or subjected to forms of statistical corroboration (quantification being a third of Guttmann’s defining characteristics of modern sport).