An upright pin , which looks like a miniature bowling pin , cone or obelisk. Skittles, as employed in billiards games, have been so-called since at least 1634. One standardized size, for the largely Italian and South American game five-pins , is 25 mm (1 in.) tall, with 7 mm (0.28 in.) round bases, though larger variants have long existed for other games such as Danish pin billiards . Depending upon the game there may be one skittle , or several, and they may be targets to hit (often via a carom ) or obstacles to avoid, usually the former. They are also sometimes called pins, though that term can be ambiguous. Because of the increasing international popularity of the Italian game five-pins ), they are sometimes also known even in English by their Italian name, birilli (singular birillo). Skittles are also used as obstacles in some artistic billiards shots. Flat, thin rectangular skittles, somewhat like large dominoes, approximately 6 in. tall by 3 in. wide, and placed upright like an obelisks on the table in specific spots, are used in the obsolescent and principally Australian games devil's pool and victory billiards . Depending upon the exact game being played, there may be one pin , or several of various colors (e.g. ten white and two black in devil's pool), and they may be targets or obstacles, most commonly the latter. They are usually made of plastic, and are increasingly difficult to obtain, even from Australian billiards suppliers. A black obelisk skittle of this sort features prominently, as a particularly dire hazard , in several scenes of sci-fi/pool film Hard Knuckle (1992, Australia). Skittles as used in billiards games date to ground billiards (13th century or earlier) played with a mace, and hand-thrown games of bowls from at least the same era using the same equipment. Ball games using a recognizable form of skittle are known from as early as ca. 3300 BCE in Ancient Egypt.