Ring the Horn - the Pub Game Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Ring the Horn - the Pub Game

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Ring the Horn is an unusual pub game played in the Garden City Inn, Derby. The equipment consists of a carved wooden horn, approximately a foot long and shaped like a rhinoceros's horn, attached to a small board screwed to the wall, and a heavy brass ring on a string attached to the ceiling. The ring hangs around six feet off the floor, and is approximately six feet away from the wall to which the horn is attached. The object of the game is, quite simply, to ring the horn. A player stands with his or her back against the bar, ring in hand, and has to swing the ring so it arcs and lands over the horn, dropping down the length of the horn to encircle it. Each player has five attempts to succeed.

The Game's Inception

The game was started when a regular in the Garden City Inn brought the wooden horn into the pub, saying he had carved it. The idea of throwing a ring over it developed soon after. The combination of skill and chance in a simple game with little equipment is a trait of many pub games, such as skittles and Aunt Sally.


The game sounds very simple, but a few attempts quickly make it clear that getting the ring over the horn is actually very tricky. If the ring is swung too hard, it will bounce off the wall above the horn, and poses something of a threat to life and limb on its return to the bar. If it is not swung hard enough, it will merely swing to and fro in the middle of the room, causing much loss of face for the thrower, who will be mercilessly jeered by the rest of the occupants of the pub. The most successful tactic is to spin the ring in a loop around the room, so it catches the horn from the side. Even employing this last approach, success rates are very low.

The apparent ease and actual difficulty of the game makes it perfect for fleecing visitors to the pub-a regular will challenge a stranger, telling the stranger to put a fiver1 on the bar. If the stranger can ring the horn within five shots, the regular will double the money. If the stranger cannot, the regular keeps the money. The stranger very rarely gets his money back.

1'fiver' is a colloquial term for a five pounds sterling note

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