December 22, 2019

Why Is Cornhole Called Cornhole? All You Need To Know

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Cornhole has taken our backyard barbeques, family get togethers, and local events by storm over the last 15 years or so and is ever growing in its popularity. Cornhole is boasted to be a summer time game but can be played almost anytime of year and has been adapted into several different forms other than the larger original style of cornhole that we see at tailgates and in our backyards. But why does it have such a strange name as “Cornhole?”

There are many theories as to the why and where of the creation of cornhole but the name cornhole means to put the “corn”, that is inside the burlap or cloth sack, into the “hole” thus making a “cornhole.”

Cornhole has a long history and no one can really seem to agree on when or where the game came about, we all know and love it from years of popularity. All this talk about cornhole, you might want to know what the game is. Well if you want to just dive right in and get a cornhole set for yourself, then check this one out on Amazon and head right back over here to check out the rules and regulations guide we have setup here.

What Is Cornhole?

Cornhole is a “backyard” style game that can be played solo but is meant for 2 to 4 players. There are 2 boards placed approximately 27 feet apart (regulation distance) and 8 bean bags. Players take turns trying to toss the bean bags underhanded to the other side to land on the cornhole board. The ultimate goal is to get the bags into the hole in the board making a “CORNHOLE!!” and scoring the most points possible.

The game is played to a score of 21 and the team who reaches the score first wins. There are many adaptations to the rules and the game type and size including smaller portable versions and even tabletop versions like the ones we talk about in this article. All in all, cornhole has the potential to be almost anywhere you go and is a great backyard game.

Why Is It Called Cornhole?

In early American times the country was a more agrarian society, meaning people did not have indoor plumbing and used outhouses to relieve themselves. They also didn't use toilet paper, so they had to use whatever they had at the time of use. Corncobs were often used for the purpose of wiping their backside. Many people of the time used to call this cornholing but cornholers of today are unapologetic as to where the term came from and how they use it. Regardless of which one you deem to be the correct way, you can see why each has its own reason for being called cornhole.

After all, the game is called that because the object of the game is to quite literally to get the corn into the hole. Over the years, the name has stuck with the game, even when many people have switched from bags of corn to bean bags, or bags containing plastic pellets. The game is often called bean bag toss for this reason but it is still the same game.

When Was Bean Bag Toss (Cornhole) Invented?

Origin #1 

Heyliger de Windt had the first documented version of the game when applied for a patent for his game, Parlor Quoits and it features the majority of features of the modern cornhole game we know today. Windt’s version had square holes instead of round ones and was the first to use bean bags and slanted boards with a hole in them to be more suitable for indoor play.

Windt sold the rights to the game to a Massachusetts toy manufacturer that marketed a version of the game called "Faba Baga". Faba in latin means bean and baga is just a play on the word bag apparently. Today’s cornhole has one hole and one size of bag whereas Faba Baga had two different-sized holes that were worth different point values and each player had one extra-large bag per round that scored double points.

Origin #2

Probably the most popular story as to the origin of the game comes from Germany where a 14th century cabinet maker by the name of Matthias Keupermann saw some boys tossing rocks at a groundhog hole trying to see if they could get them into the holes. They would have to retrieve them each and every time and it became a nuisance, but was also a danger if they were to be attacked by the groundhog inhabiting those holes.

Keupermann saw this as an opportunity to build something a little safer for the boys and designed a set of boards with holes of the same size and used bags filled with corn instead of rocks and gave it to the boys to play.

The consensus of the population of Cincinnati Ohio is that their ancestors from Germany brought this game that Keupermann invented over with them when they settled the area around the Ohio city and is why it is one of the most popular games of the area. This has no real evidence other than lore and hearsay over time that can confirm this claim to fame.

Origin #3

Another origin story is claimed by the good people in Kentucky who say that a man named Jebediah McGillicuddy, a farmer in the 1800’s came up with a very similar version of this game to pass the time but along with most of the “origin” claims of this game, this one has no real evidence other than hearsay and a large popularity of the game in this region.

Origin #4

There are claims out there that Native Americans started this fad by taking dried animal skins and filling them with beans or corn and throwing them in holes but as with the others above, there is no rea, documented proof other than origin story number one.

Who Is Cornhole For?

Cornhole is a game centered towards adults but is not limited there because children of any age can make the game fun, but most likely not at regulation lengths. There are many smaller versions of the game that are tailored towards indoor play and smaller children. Check out this tabletop version on Amazon that is super fun. I have a few small indoor sets myself and are a lot of fun, until it gets WAY too competitive.

Cornhole As A Sport

As popular as cornhole has gotten over the years there are now professional cornhole teams and a league for cornholers all over the country. The American Cornhole League has rules, regulations, videos, and tournament information for you to check out if you want the latest news and information about happenings in the sport, you should check them out.

Cornhole target with bags on it - Why Is Cornhole Called Cornhole
Red and white cornhole game board with blue and yellow beanbags on green grass.
Article written by Matt Powell
Hi, I am Matt and I have been playing outdoor games as long as I can remember. Today I have several games that I play on the regular and got together with Josh here on Outdoor Diversions so we could share our passion for the outdoors, gaming, and sports with you.