The scene depicts the grounds of a country tavern where we see various people engaged in a traditional game of Horseshoes in which players attempt to encircle a stake in the ground with thrown horseshoes. It is closely related to quoits, a very similar game, and has been played for centuries in Europe. Evidence suggests that the Greeks and Romans played some version and by the 1800s it had become extremely popular in England.
The picture presented here is a typical example of genre painting of the period, that is, a painting of subjects from everyday life, usually small in scale. Developed particularly in Holland in the 17th century, most typically with scenes of peasant life or drinking in taverns. In Britain Hogarth’s moral subjects were a special kind of genre in their frankness and often biting social satire. Simpler genre painting emerged in later eighteenth century England in the works of such artists as George and Henry Morland, and Francis Wheatley. It became hugely popular in the Victorian age and was adopted by many painters to depict tales of a moral and sentimental nature.