Family friend John Plews told Sky News that Bowen died on Wednesday morning with his wife Phyllis by his side.
“He passed away very peacefully, she was with him. We are all shedding a tear. It wasn’t completely unexpected, he’s been ill for several weeks in hospital,” he said.
Bowen achieved cult status in Bullseye, a game show where contestants threw darts and answered basic general knowledge questions to progress.
His catchphrases, such as “super, smashing, great”, “let’s see what you could have won” and “you can’t beat a bit of Bully” made him a household name.
The show, which ran between 1981 and 1995, was watched by over 12 million viewers, and was especially popular among students.
It attracted a peak audience of almost 19 million viewers on Boxing Day 1989.
Born Peter Williams in Heswall on the Wirral in 1937, Bowen was adopted as a baby by Annie and Joe Whittaker from Clayton-le-Moors, Lancashire, taking the name James Whittaker.
At 15 years old, having left Accrington Grammar School, he worked as a dustman in Blackburn for a short time and completed national service before becoming a PE teacher.
At training college, he met his future wife Phyllis and they married in 1959. They later had two children, Susan and Peter.
He rose to become a deputy headmaster but a stint in amateur dramatics gave him a thirst for being on stage.
In the 1960s he switched careers and took up stand-up comedy under the stage name Jim Bowen and soon ended up performing on television.
As well as Bullseye, Bowen also had a number of TV acting roles, including in Last Of The Summer Wine, Muck And Brass, Jonathan Creek, The Grimleys, and the second series of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights.
He also presented a morning show on BBC Radio Lancashire from 1999 to 2003.
In 2011, Bowen, also known as Alf in the Tetley Bitter adverts, said he had learned to “appreciate all the things in life” after suffering two strokes.
In 2005, 2007 and 2008, he appeared at The Edinburgh Festival, with a show featuring tales about his time in show business and Bullseye stories.
Actor Will Mellor has paid tribute, tweeting: “Sad news about Jim Bowen! Ya can’t beat a bit o bully!! #RIP.”