The married couple Leroy and Loretta Lockhorn constantly argue. They demonstrate their mutual deep-seated hatred by making humorously sarcastic comments on each other's failings as spouses.
Many of the business and institutions depicted in the strip are real places located in or near Huntington, New York on the North Shore of Long Island. The cartoon feature was initially titled The Lockhorns of Levittown. Anticipating national syndication, Bunny Hoest suggested shortening the title to The Lockhorns. It began as a single-panel daily on September 9, 1968, with the Sunday feature launched April 9, 1972. The Sunday feature initially employed an unusual layout that ganged together several single-panel cartoons. Comics historian Don Markstein described the couple's battle of wits:
It focused just on the couple themselves—no children, no next-door neighbors, no boss, etc., except to the extent others were occasionally needed as props. The entire raison d'etre of the series is to show Leroy and Loretta trading caustic one-liners. They fight about his roving eye, her cooking, his earning power, her excessive shopping, and the fact that both are middle-aged and dumpy-looking. Also, anything else that happens to occur to them. There are a few other recurring characters, such as Loretta's mother (so they can argue about her visits), their marriage counselor (so they can argue in front of him) and Leroy's favorite bartender (so they can argue about his drinking). But the entire focus is on Leroy and Loretta themselves. The syndicate's publicity tries to make them sound more like the average comics family, claiming (of Leroy, after describing some of his faults) "you can't help but love him nonetheless"; and (of the couple, after describing their relationship) "they realize they're together 'till death do us part' and they wouldn't have it any other way"—but don't you believe it. If either of them has a lovable quality, readers never see it. And if they wouldn't want to part, it can only be because their greatest pleasure comes from keeping each other on edge.
Bill Hoest died in 1988, but his widow, Bunny Hoest, continued the strip with Bill Hoest's long-time assistant, John Reiner.
Bill Hoest's The Lockhorns (July 12, 1981)
Leroy Lockhorn – The man of the house who drinks a lot, plays golf too much and chases everything good-looking in a skirt.
Loretta Lockhorn – The woman of the house is a shopaholic, who drives and cooks terribly and does most of the handiwork around the house because either Leroy is too lazy to do it, or because he feels she should earn all the money she spends.
Loretta's mother – Never named and rarely seen (usually only during the Christmas season when she comes to stay), but hated mercilessly by Leroy.
D. Pullman, marriage counselor – Whom Leroy and Loretta routinely see but to no avail.
Arthur the bartender – Local saloonkeeper to whom Leroy often bemoans his circumstances.
"Marital Mirth", part of the "Super-Fun-Pak Comics" in Tom the Dancing Bug, is a parody of The Lockhorns.
The Better Half comic strip is often seen as a tamer version of The Lockhorns.
An early Liō strip featured Liō's ants attacking numerous comic strips on a newspaper page, all of which parodied real comic strips. The Lockhorns appeared as The Hateeachothers, depicting a non-plussed Leeroy Hateeachother comparing the monstrous ant to Loretta's mother.
A Watch Your Head comic featured a movie trailer "Dear Loretta, Love, Leroy" where the bickering turns out to be a romantic comedy.
At least nine Lockhorns collections were published by Signet between 1968 and 1982. Tor reissued the first in the series as The Lockhorns: "What Do You Mean You Weren't Listening? I Didn't Say Anything" in 1992.