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Quoits: The Precursor to Horseshoes

Updated on October 22, 2014
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Jeff Johnston is a medieval reenactor and avid history fan. He is also the publisher at Living History Publications.

Extant example of Quoits
Extant example of Quoits | Source
Newcastle pit men playing quoits
Newcastle pit men playing quoits | Source

A History in Question

Fans of the classic target game of Horseshoes will tell you that Quoits is nothing more than a variant of horseshoes with closed ring instead of the standard U shaped horseshoe. Fans of Quoits will tell you that Horseshoes is nothing more than the poor man's quoits. Which is true, hard to say for sure, but it seems likely that horseshoes developed from Quoits and not the other way around.

A Brief History of Quoits

It seems to be linked to Discus which traces its routes all the way back to the Minoan empire circa 5000 BCE. Generally the disks used in Quoits are made from poor quality leftover ore from mines, this seems to point to it being a game of commoners, not a game of the nobles. In 1388 the Sporting Regulations Act condemned the sport and made it illegal on the grounds that it interrupted archery practice. And by the 15th century it had become a well organized sport played most often in pubs and taverns throughout England which further supports the theory of it being a game of the commoners and not nobility. Some modern variants of the game are closer to ring toss than horseshoes, but any historical references clearly state the ring was metal and fairly heavy.

How To Play

Quoits is played very similar to modern day horseshoes. The quoits themselves are round metal disks. The disks are thrown down the pitch towards a metal peg. In some versions the scoring works similar to curling in that all quoits closer to the pin than the closest competitors quoit count as a point, in others only a maximum of one point is scored per end, points are only scored if a quoit lands directly on the peg, and only the top quoit counts as a point.

Modernly a shrunken indoor version has developed and is a popular pub game in Wales. This is basically a ring toss drinking game. There is no evidence that the shrunken pub version was ever played in period, however the full sized outdoor game was quite often a drinking game.

The Avacal Games Guild is a group of people in the SCA Kingdom of Avacal who are interested in Medieval games

The Badge of the Avacal Games Guild
The Badge of the Avacal Games Guild | Source

© 2014 Jeff Johnston


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      William Leverne Smith 3 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Love to learn something new each day. This one made my day! Thanks, so much, for sharing!! ;-)