History of the Highland Games


In their original form many centuries ago, Highland games revolved around athletic and sports competitions. Though other activities were always a part of the festivities, many today still consider Highland athletics to be what the games are all about—in short, that the athletics are the Games, and all the other activities are just entertainment. Regardless, it remains true today that the athletic competitions are at least an integral part of the events and one—the caber toss—has come to almost symbolize the Highland games.




Perhaps one of the most fascinating events in the games is the caber toss.

A long tapered pine pole or log is stood upright and hoisted by the competitor

The primary objective is to toss the caber so that it turns end over end, falling away from the tosser. Ideally it should fall directly away from the tosser in the "12 o'clock" position. The distance thrown is unimportant.

The tosser balances the caber upright, tapered end downwards, against his shoulder and neck; the caber being supported by stewards or fellow-competitors while being placed into position. The tosser then crouches, sliding his interlocked hands down the caber and under the rounded base, and lifts it in his cupped hands. On standing he must balance the caber upright - no easy feat with the heavier end at the top, and less-experienced tossers may be unable to stop the caber falling to one side after lifting it. The tosser then walks or runs a few paces forward to gain momentum, and flips the tapered end upwards so that the large end hits the ground first and - if well tossed - the caber falls directly away from the tosser. If successful, the athlete is said to have turned the caber.

Cabers vary greatly in length, weight, taper, and balance, all of which affect the degree of difficulty in making a successful toss. Competitors are judged on how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o'clock toss on an imaginary clock.

Weight and strength are clearly essential for success, but technique is also important for balancing the caber when lifting it, and flipping up the held (tapered) end to promote a clean toss.

In competition, tossers are normally allowed three attempts each at tossing the caber.


This event is similar to the modern-day shot put. Instead of a steel shot, a large stone of variable weight is used. There are two versions of the stone toss events, differing in allowable technique. The "Braemar Stone" uses a 20–26 lb stone for men (13–18 lb for women) and does not allow any run up to the toeboard or "trig" to deliver the stone, i.e., it is a standing put. In the "Open Stone" using a 16–22 lb stone for men (or 8–12 lb for women), the thrower is allowed to use any throwing style so long as the stone is put with one hand with the stone resting cradled in the neck until the moment of release. Most athletes in the open stone event use either the "glide" or the "spin" techniques.