A vortex ring, also called a toroidal vortex, is a torus shaped vortex in a fluid; that is, a region where the fluid mostly spins around an imaginary axis line that forms a closed loop. The dominant flow in a vortex ring is said to be toroidal, more precisely poloidal.
Vortex rings are plentiful in turbulent flows of liquids and gases, but are rarely noticed unless the motion of the fluid is revealed by suspended particles—as in the smoke rings which are often produced intentionally or accidentally by smokers. Fiery vortex rings are also a commonly produced trick by fire eaters. Visible vortex rings can also formed by the firing of certain artillery, in mushroom clouds, and in microbursts.
A vortex ring usually tends to move in a direction that is perpendicular to the plane of the ring and such that the inner edge of the ring moves faster forward than the outer edge. Within a stationary body of fluid, a vortex ring can travel for relatively long distance, carrying the spinning fluid with it.
And did you know that even volcanoes can create vortex rings? (If you haven’t seen the post I just linked to yet, where the hell have you been?!)
But it is generally agreed that the finest examples of vortex rings are those created by our friends from Middle Earth, the Hobbits. ;)