How to Play Portuguese Horseshoes

How to Play Portuguese Horseshoes

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Horseshoes and old-fashioned picnics just seem to go together. Do you remember hearing the loud ringing clank followed by groans and cheers as someone got a "ringer"? Although usually played only by older folks nowadays, many young people are trying out a twist on this old favorite. Portuguese Horseshoes may have been invented by a crew from the Pearl Harbor Shipyard in Hawaii but it is now being played around the world by many cultures and age groups. Portuguese Horseshoes are also called Washers or Portagee Horseshoes.

Items you will need

  • 2 wooden boxes with 4 to 5-inch hole cut out of the center of each (recommended size 15 inches by 15 inches with 6-inch front and 11-inch backboard); may be carpeted

  • 6 washers, 4 inches

Place the two boxes 15 to 25 feet apart with the backboards facing out. Beginners may wish to use the shorter distance.

Form two teams with each having two members. Give each team three washers. Each team stands to the right of one of the boxes facing the other team.

Take turns throwing the washers at the box of the opposing team. Once all six washers have been thrown, score the throws as follows:

1 point for a washer that lands on top of the box

2 points for a washer that partially covers the hole but does not go into the hole or leans against the backboard

3 points for a washer that goes into the hole

Switch sides with the opposing team and continue taking turns throwing washers until one team gets 30 points or another predetermined total.


  • Players should agree on a point-system before play commences to avoid arguments.
  • Portuguese Horseshoes may also be played by just two individuals instead of two-person teams.
  • Paint or otherwise decorate your washers to distinguish between the teams' washers. In Hawaii some people "custom machine honu turtle shapes" onto their washers.
  • If you have more than four people, devise a tournament where teams compete for first place.
  • Some players of Portuguese Horseshoes use four washers per team and play to 21 points with a win margin of two points. Another scoring variation is an automatic win if your washer lands balancing on the backboard.
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