Fivepins is found exclusively in Canada, where it is said to have been invented a century ago in response to complaints that the tenpin game was too strenuous. Due to their lower operating and maintenance costs, "string" pinsetting machines are the most common type found in Canada. A few manufacturers offered "free-fall" pinsetters once upon a time, although they are no longer made.

Ninepins is still found throughout Europe, where it originated. This version of the game was brought to the U.S. in colonial times, but soon became outlawed due to its association with drinking, gambling and other vices. According to legend, some enterprising individual circumvented the law banning "ninepins" by simply adding a tenth pin. The formation of the American Bowling Congress to standardize the rules of tenpins — combined with the invention of the automatic pinsetter — increased tenpins' popularity while accelerating ninepins' decline. Today, ninepins survives in the U.S. in a handful of private clubs located in and around San Antonio, Texas.

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