One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Originally Scottish. Any of various games in which players throw or bowl a (typically heavy) ball over a relatively great distance, as ninepins, etc.; specifically one in which players compete to see who can throw a heavy ball or shot the furthest, or cover a specified distance in the fewest throws. Now historical and rare.
2Figurative. The exchange of artillery fire at a considerable distance, especially between ships. Especially in "(to play) at long bowls". Compare "long ball". Now historical and rare.
Late 15th century. From long + bowl.
long bowl/ˌlɒŋ ˈbəʊl/
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