Highland Games Event

"Big men in kilts throwing heavy things - what's not to like?" - grundoon

This is the event that most people will associate with the Highland Games, and refers to the art and science of hurling a wooden pole up in the air to hit a target.

The origins of the event are shrouded in the far mists of history, but it is believed that it began in the 16th Century. It is possible that it is of Viking origin, as it was a traditional test of strength to hurl logs as far as possible. The word may originate with the Gaelic word caber, meaning a rafter or pole, but some have suggested an English origin from "casting the bar".

The event probably evolved over the years. Various descriptions of events have been recorded, from throwing a wagon axle, flipping a heavy iron bar over its end with the foot, and throwing an iron bar for height or distance, to throwing a tree trunk for accuracy or distance. The modern version is almost certainly of early 19th-century origin.

The Toss

Cabers are "cast", "pitched", "spurned" or "tossed". The pole itself is a tapered log, usually between fifteen and twenty feet in length, and weighing an average of 130lbs (around ten stones, or 60 kilos). The object is not, as many people think, to hurl as far as possible - rather, the aim is to hit the twelve o'clock position of a circle marked on the field.

The competitor begins at a fixed start point, holding the caber by the narrow end, and as low as possible, then takes a run in order to gain some momentum. He then raises the caber to chest level before flipping it so that the narrow end strikes as close as possible to the target.

Well known tossers (if you will excuse the expression) include Grant Anderson, Geoff Capes, Bill Anderson, Jeff Thompson and Jim McGoldrick.


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