Skip to Content

Cornhole vs. Horseshoes: 15 Things to Consider (Differences, Similarities,…)

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Cornhole and horseshoes are excellent games to play on a sunny day. When choosing between the two, you should consider their similarities and differences. 

Cornhole and horseshoes are both target games for two to four people. Cornhole is played with corn-filled sacks, while horseshoes is played with actual horseshoes or rings. Both games aim to throw the item close to or on a target to score the most points. 

While cornhole and horseshoes have a lot in common, they also have key differences that set them apart. Read on to find out how these classic games compare.  

1. Cornhole and Horseshoes Are Target Games

Target games are games where players attempt to move objects as close to a designated target area as possible. Some targets have varying points depending on difficulty. For example, hitting the bullseye of a dart board is worth more than hitting other parts of the board.

Cornhole uses two wooden boards titled towards the players. The boards have one hole at the top. The goal is to throw the beanbag into the hole, though players will also score points for landing on the board.

On the other hand, the target in horseshoes is a stake positioned upright in the ground. Players throw horseshoes, intending to wrap them around the stake. Points are also awarded for relative proximity to the stake — though, of course, they’re lower than the points for landing the horseshoe on the stake.  

2. Cornhole and Horseshoes Have Simple Rules

Cornhole and horseshoes are straightforward games to learn. You can quickly pick up the rules and jump right in because they’re simple. As I’ve mentioned, the point of both games is to score the most points by landing the cornhole or horseshoe on designated target areas.

Players stand behind a designated line. In cornhole, they stand before the end of the opposite board. In horseshoes, they typically stand behind the 40 feet (12.19 m) mark. Players take turns throwing the object toward their target, trying to get as close as possible. 

3. Cornhole and Horseshoes Can Be Played With 2–4 Players

Both cornhole and horseshoes are excellent games for two to four players. Both have two teams, usually signified by red or blue colors. Two players or two 2-person teams can play against each other. In horseshoes, all players stand in the same line to throw their objects. 

Things are slightly different in cornhole because there are two boards on opposite sides. If there are two players, they’ll stand at the same time and throw all of their bags. Once finished, they’ll move to the opposite board, collect their bags, and continue playing from that side.  

4. Cornhole and Horseshoes Both Require Minimal Setup

Many outdoor games require a lot of effort. For example, badminton requires a large net to be secured in the ground at a certain angle (i.e., it should be across the width of the field, not along the length or diagonally). Sports like football or baseball usually require special playing fields with nets, marks, and other equipment.

Meanwhile, cornhole and horseshoes playing fields can be set up even by relative amateurs. For cornhole, you only need to place the boards roughly 27 feet (8.22 m) apart. For horseshoes, you’ll need to pierce the stake into the ground. This is much easier to do on soft portions of grass or dirt.

5. You Can Play Cornhole or Horseshoes With One Hand

Let’s say you’re playing games at a picnic, BBQ, or party. If you’re the type who doesn’t mind tossing objects while holding a drink in one hand, cornhole and horseshoes are perfect for you. You only need one hand to throw the item in both games, leaving your other hand free.

6. Scoring Is Slightly More Complex in Horseshoes

Don’t let this detail scare you. The truth is scoring is straightforward in both cornhole and horseshoes. However, there’s an element to scoring in horseshoes that can make it a little more challenging. In cornhole, players get one point for landing a bag on the board and 3 points for getting it in the hole. Bags that have landed on the grass and bounced don’t count towards points. 

In horseshoes, shoes that land around a stake get 3 points. Shoes that lean against it or are within 6 inches (15.24 cm) of the stake get 1 point. It all sounds simple, but determining what is within a 6-inch (15.24 cm) radius of the stake can be tricky without the proper equipment. 

So, it’s best to use a measuring tape or come up with a consensus beforehand. Drawing a line in chalk around the stake can be a great way to avoid any potential disagreements.   

7. Cancellation Scoring Is Used in Cornhole and Horseshoes

Points can rack up quite quickly when playing games. So, these party games use a cancellation scoring system to keep the game going longer and the competition fierce. Cancellation scoring means that only one team scores per round. At the end of each round, each team tallies up their points. Each point your team scores is canceled by one point from the opposing team. 

For example, if a red team scored 3 points and the blue team scored 5, the first 3 points are canceled. Since only one team scores each round, that leaves blue with 2 points.

8. There Are Scoring Variations in Both Games

In the traditional scoring system, both teams play until they’ve reached 21 points or more. However, people who regularly play these games often come up with scoring variations. One common variation is that you must get exactly 21 points — no more and no less. If you go over, your score is lowered to 13, and you must continue playing until you score precisely 21. 

9. Cornhole & Horseshoes Are Relaxing Outdoor Games

These games are designed as relaxing outdoor events. Neither involves a lot of running around or speed. All you have to do is throw an object toward a target. While still competitive, the relaxed pace of cornhole and horseshoes make them wonderful ways to spread chill vibes all around.  

10. There Are 4 Cornhole Bags and 2 Horseshoes per Team

As you may have noticed, the basics of both games are pretty similar. That said, there are two rings per team in horseshoes and four bags per team in cornhole. This means horseshoes often moves faster than cornhole since rounds and scoring happen more frequently.

11. Turn-Taking Is Different

The goals and rules of the games are the same overall. There are a few exceptions, though, such as the turn-taking method for cornhole and horseshoes. After all, considering the relaxed pace of both, you can’t have people yelling at each other about whether it’s their turn to toss or not.

When playing cornhole, players take turns tossing each bag until all bags have been thrown. For example, the player on the red team will throw one, followed by one for the blue team, and so forth. The team that scored the most points in that round will go first in the next round.  

In horseshoes, one player throws both their horseshoes before the other player is allowed to go. Like in cornhole, the last player to score goes first in the following round. 

12. Horseshoes Are Easier To Transport Than Cornhole Bags

It’s already been established how easy these two games are to set up and play. However, horseshoes is more mobile due to the smaller size of the required equipment. As long as you have a stake and four rings or horseshoes, you can place these in a large, sturdy bag for transport and play anywhere. 

Cornhole, on the other hand, comes with two sizable boards measuring about 2 x4 feet (0.60 x 1.21 m). Transporting a cornhole game set may require fitting the equipment into the trunk or backseat of a car.

13. Cornhole and Horseshoes Are Played From Different Distances

Cornhole is played from a distance of 27 feet (8.22 m). Although this is the traditional distance, you may not necessarily have the equipment to measure that exact length. So, most people “guesstimate” the distance, roughly equivalent to a Volkswagen beetle’s length.

On the other hand, horseshoes are usually played from a distance of 40 feet (12.19 m). However, this can vary as well. Many people place the stake closer if they don’t have enough space or to make it more kid-friendly. 

14. Horseshoe Stakes Can Leave Pits in the Ground

One unfortunate aspect of playing horseshoes is that the stake leaves a pit in the ground. If you are playing in soft soil or grass, make sure it’s okay to leave a small hole. Playing in sand is ideal because it eliminates this problem (though sand may also have stability issues). 

15. Horseshoes Is Older Than Cornhole

Both these games have long histories. The horseshoes game was born between the 1st and 5th centuries and was originally derived from the game of quoits. On the other hand, it’s hard to say when cornhole was invented, but some say it started around the 14th century. 

All Things Considered

If you haven’t tried horseshoes or cornhole, I recommend both! They’re excellent games to play at your next outdoor event because they’re easy to learn and are crowd-pleasers. The setup and rules are simple, albeit with slight differences. 

Target games are a fun way to practice your precision. If played with two people, you can get into the competitive spirit, and with four, you can enjoy more of the team dynamic. It’s fun for the whole family. So keep calm and play on!

+ posts

This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.