This grey wash drawing is a sketch or first idea for the print in the series Rural Sports, titled Ploughing. During the process of development, Hearne would have first produced a sketch, then a more detailed version in pen and ink and watercolour which would have been given to the engraver to copy from. When comparing the sketch with the print we can see that Hearne has made a slight change to the composition in replacing two of the horses with oxen.
In 1780 Hearne began Rural Sports, a series of twelve engravings in oval format. Eight of the scenes depict agricultural activities: Ploughing, Haymaking, The Cornfield, Threshing, and The Windmill display the yearly production cycle of cereals and animal fodder, while The Dairy, The Hop Ground, and The Apiary describe other appropriate tasks. The four scenes of pastimes and sport are Angling, the Talli-ho, or fox breaking cover, Shooting and Coursing.
This subject was etched and engraved with the title in English and French together with the inscriptions T. Hearne del. / W. Byrne dirext. / Published as the Act directs, 16 July 1781, by W. Byrne, No. 79 Titchfield Street, London. A later edition was published on July the 23rd in 1810 by John P. Thompson, Gt Newport Street.