Monday, September 24, 2012

Scottish Highland Games—The Caber Toss

By Dawn Marie Hamilton

I've heard the comment made that the 'heavy' athletic events at a Scottish Highland Games are as unique to the Scottish as are bagpipes and tartans. (The Irish may take offense to this statement, but I think you get my meaning.) The competition most well known is probably the tossing of the caber.

Sizing the Caber
The caber is not a telephone pole, as some describe it, but a trimmed tree trunk tapering at one end. The type of tree used depends on what is locally available. As you can imagine, due to its nature, cabers vary greatly from event to event and from year to year. Typical cabers are 16 to 20 feet long and weigh from 90 to 140 pounds. The longer the caber, the more difficult to turn.

Skill—balance, strength, timing—is required to excel in this event. The competitor balances the caber against his shoulder with the small end cradled in his hands and the large end in the air, keeping the caber vertical. When ready, he runs and allows the caber to fall forward. Determining the right moment, he stops and flips the small end up. If done correctly—speed, toss and timing—the momentum carries the small end over the large and the caber falls away from the competitor.

The toss is judged according to an imaginary clock face. If the athlete stands at six o'clock, the perfect toss points to twelve o'clock. Tosses landing between nine o'clock and three o'clock are considered good. Judges record the best of three tosses. Ties are broken by determining the closest throw to twelve o'clock.

Do you enjoy attending the heavy athletic events at a Scottish gathering?

I'll discuss more events in future posts so stop back.

12 comments:

Victoria Roberts said...

Hi Dawn! I like watching ALL of the kilts ;-)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

How can you not, Victoria? Gotta love a Scotsman in a kilt.

Alexa said...

That's a pretty heavy tree! Great post. I love watching the Tossing of the Caber at Scottish events when I can.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

I've been mistreated, I can see. I haven't been to a Highland Games event yet and can see it is a must on my to do list. I've seen it done in movies and in photos, but never live.

Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Great little post. Wouldn't fancy my chances trying to toss one of these! I wonder, do you know of any events coming up in November where I can watch this? I'm staying at my friend's apartment in Edinburgh Old Town for a little homely break away from London :) can't wait!

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Tossing of the caber is fun to watch, Alexa. Next month I'll post about a different event.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Oh, Paisley, one of these days we'll have to get you to a Highland games. A lot of men in kilts. What could be better?

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hello, Anonymous. I'm afraid I'm only familiar with US events. Hope you find one to attend while on holiday.

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Gerard Butler tossing one of those cabers. :)

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Too true, Paisley!

Kristal Hollis said...

The caber toss is one of my favorite sports to watch at the Highland Games. In Central Florida, the games are held every January and we always have the perfect "Scottish" weather.

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Hey, Kristal. Sounds like fun. I attended the North Florida games last year in February on a cold blustery day. Had a great time. :)