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The Rules of Ringing the Bull


The Rules of Ringing the Bull

Being a traditional pub game without any national governing body, variations of equipment and rules abound. Where there is doubt, locally played rules should always apply. For Ringing the Bull, even a local league would be unusual for a game which is about as uncomplicated as is possible. Indeed, many pubs dispense with any rules at all and it is treated merely as an amusing pastime. Consequently, the variations of Ringing the Bull will vary not so much from town to town as from pub to pub. There are even versions played in the Caribbean where the game is known as 'Bimini Ring'. These rules merely give an idea of how to play the game.

Note: 1 yard = 3 feet = 36 inches = 0.9144 metres.

See also: Ringing the Bull.


Ringing the Bull

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The Basic Game

The target is a hook attached in some way to a wall at about eye-height. Traditionally, the target should be a bulls horn with the point turned upwards but modern pubs sometimes use a simple wall hook since a genuine horn has a limited life span. Sometimes, the stuffed head of a bull or other animal is affixed to the wall and the target is a hook or knob protruding from its nose.

Several feet from the hook, a ring dangles from the end of a piece of thin rope or string, the other end of which is attached to the ceiling. Traditionally, the ring is a bulls nose ring.

A participant should stand on the opposite side of the room to the hook and, starting with the ring about chest-height, swing the ring with the aim of getting it to land on the hook.

As an example, the hook might be 5 feet 9 inches from the floor, the ring 1 & 1/2 inches in diameter, the rope 8 feet long and a player could stand behind a line 12 feet from the hook.

Variation 1 - Solo Pastime

Ringing the bull is usually played simply as an entertaining pastime. A person will make a a number of attempts to ring the bull and then pass the ring to somebody else for a turn. As a person's skill improves, they may wish to start trying different techniques. The basic throw is simple a swing in a clockwise direction (for a right handed player) straight onto the ring but advanced players can also ring the bull across themselves in an anti-clockwise direction. Old hands are able to throw with either hand in either direction and will then really impress their spectators by facing away from the hook and swinging in the opposite direction such that upon its return the bull is ringed. For extra difficulty, they might do this while standing next to the target instead of at the usual throwing mark. The ultimate throw is one which circles the room completely twice and then lands squarely on the target. Difficult yes, but not impossible!

Variation 2 - A Casual Game

Where the informal pastime becomes an informal competition, a player will just swing the ring a certain number of times and then make way for the next person. For these informal games, 21 attempts per person is typical and the player who rings the bull the most times wins.

Variation 3 - A Competitive Example

In the Pineapple Inn, Shaw, Greater Manchester, they have been reported to play the game once a year on boxing day as a singles knock-out competition. The target is a bulls horn.

Before the game starts, each player is allowed three practice swings. During the game, if a player inadvertently drops the ring, instead of properly swinging it, a "dropped ring" is called and does not count as an attempt.

The players take turns to swing the ring ten times in succession. A scorer keeps count of the number of successful bull rings and the first player to achieve the feat 16 times, wins (except for the final which is the first to 21). Masters Games suggests that the game should not finish until both players have had an equal number of turns and that, in the event of a draw, the players should continue to take a turn each of 10 throws in succession until one player is victorious.



These rules are provided by Masters Traditional Games, an Internet shop selling quality traditional games, pub games and unusual games. For general information or for copying and copyright, see our Rules Information page.

Our rules are comprehensive instructions for friendly play. If in doubt, always abide by locally-played or house rules.

Copyright Masters Traditional Games © 2019. All rights reserved.

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