Caber Tossing (Gaelic cabar, a pole or beam), a Scottish athletic exercise which consists in throwing a section of a trunk of a tree, called the caber, in such a manner that it shall turn over in the air and fall on the ground with its small end pointing in the direction directly opposite to the tosser. Tossing the caber is usually considered to be a distinctly Scottish sport, although casting the bar, an exercise evidently similar in character, was popular in England in the 16th century but afterwards died out.
The caber is the heavy trunk of a tree from 16 to 20 feet long. It is often brought upon the field heavier than can be thrown and then cut to suit the contestants, although sometimes cabers of different sizes are kept, each contestant taking his choice. The toss is made after a run, the caber being set up perpendicularly with the heavy end up by assistants on the spot indicated by the tosser, who sets one foot against it, grasps it with both hands, and, as soon as he feels it properly balanced, gives the word to the assistants to let go their hold. He then raises the caber and gets both hands underneath the lower end. "A practised hand, having freed the caber from the ground, and got his hands underneath the end, raises it till the lower end is nearly on a level with his elbows, then advances for several yards, gradually increasing his speed till he is sometimes at a smart run before he gives the toss. Just before doing this he allows the caber to leave his shoulder, and as the heavy top end begins to fall forward, he throws the end he has in his hands upwards with all his strength, and, if successful, after the heavy end strikes the ground the small end continues its upward motion till perpendicular, when it falls forward, and the caber lies in a straight line with the tosser". (W. M. Smith)
The winner is he who tosses with the best and easiest style, according to old Highland traditions, and whose caber falls straightest in a direct line from him. In America a style called the Scottish-American prevails at Caledonian games. In this the object is distance alone, the same caber being used by all contestants and the toss being measured from the tossers foot to the spot where the small end strikes the ground. This style is repudiated in Scotland. Donald Dinnie, born in 1837 and still a champion in 1890, was the best tosser of modern times.
See W. M. Smith, Athletics and Athletic Sports in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1891).
Being the entry for CABER TOSSING in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.