Original Published on Aug 18, 2022 at 20:19
By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Have you ever played bunnock? Have you even heard of it? People at Cudworth were able to enjoy the sixth annual tournament held there on Saturday August 13th. The day got under way at 9:00 am as the 38 teams began the round robin play. Teams included players aged from 7 to 70 and even though it was a competitive tournament, the atmosphere was jovial and fun for everyone.
As teams progressed through the round robin, organizer Brent Stewart, a member of the Cudworth and Area Recreation Board, began placing them in one of three pools, Championship, Consolation, and Double Consolation. Prize payouts varied per pool.
The object of the game is simple: knock down the opponents bunnock before they can knock yours down. Bunnock was originally played using horse ankle bones and was developed in the 19th century in the frozen Siberian landscape to pass the time during the long cold winters. The game was passed down from generation to generation and in 1993 the Macklin Chamber of Commerce came up with the plan to host the first-ever World Bunnock Championship. Bunnock or ‘bones’ as it was called by those who grew up playing the game, involves throwing a ‘bone’ called a thrower at the opponent’s line of bones. Each team has a line of 20 bones (grey or white) set 10 metres apart. At both ends of the line, set 40 cm away from the end of the line, is a red (or black) guard. As play begins the guards must be knocked down before the regular soldiers. If a soldier is knocked down before the guards, it is placed upright 5 cm inside of the guard. If a player accidently knocks down one of their own ‘bones’ during play it stays down. The throwers are lobbed at the opponent’s line, just as the ball in softball is lobbed toward the plate. Teams take turns trying to knock down the opponent’s line and the team which does so first is the winner.
Modern day bunnock are made of acrylic and have a definite advantage over the original material. Modern bunnock never dry out and become brittle and the colour is consistent all the way through so that a bit of wear and tear does not affect the colour. As well they are all the same weight and of course this helps the players to determine how much force to put into their throw. A full set of bunnock consist of 52 ‘bones’: 40 soldiers, four guards, and eight throwers. The game can be played by two to eight players, but tournament play usually involves teams of four.
Stewart shared that when he went to university, he learned of the game from friends who had grown up in Macklin, SK where the game is well-known. When he moved to Cudworth and joined the Recreation Board he brought up the idea of a tournament as a fundraiser and from there the rest is, as they say, history. In 2015, when the tournament first started in Cudworth, Macklin was about the only other place where the game was played. Over the years, as people have learned of the game other tournaments have sprung up in Saskatoon and Edmonton and other smaller towns as well, Brent shared. The Cudworth Rec Board owns some bunnock sets, but for the tournament they also borrow some from individuals who have purchased their own sets over the years and for anyone interested in owning their own set to practice and prepare for next year’s tournaments, each set is worth approximately $300 and can be purchased from the official site www.bunnock.com. Of the 38 teams partaking in the tournament at Cudworth, only one did not have some connection to Cudworth, whether it was a familial one or some other connection, but that’s not to say that the tournament is exclusive to Cudworth and area residents. Anyone is welcome to enter a team next year and join in the uniqueness of the game.
This item reprinted with permission from the Recorder, Wakaw, Saskatchewan