About Highland Game Athletic Events:
History of the Highland Games Athletic Events
Scottish men have tested their strength against each other at Highland gatherings for centuries. King Malcolm Ceanmore, who began his reign in 1057, is credited with initiating crude forms of today’s Scottish Highland Games’ athletic competition as a means of improving the abilities of his military. While the games had become festive occasions by the sixteenth century, they were still seen as a way for kings and chiefs to choose the best men for their retinues.
The equipment currently used for the Highland Games has evolved from items locally available to the early Scotsman. A blacksmith’s hammer or a mell for driving fenceposts has become the 22# hammer. Woodsmen produced the caber(gaelic for ‘tree”) for their own event. Thrown for height and distance were 56# and 28# steelyard weights (4-stone & 2-stone weights). Tossing a sheaf with a pitchfork likely emerged from the agricultural regions. A rounded riverbed stone made the ideal “clachneart” and still does today.
Today’s Scottish Highland Games athlete combines strength, skill and endurance to compete in these time honored events. The athletes typically compete in all 7 Heavy events in one day. In the spirit of the affable Scot, these competitors combine the attributes of the athlete with the fellowship of clansmen to promote and perpetuate the heart of the Scottish festival, The Highland Games.
Classes can include Men’s Professional, Men’s amateur classes “A” (top amateur), “B”, and “C” (novice), Men’s Masters (over 40), Men’s Lightweight (under 190#) plus a Women’s Open, Women’s Masters(over 40) and Women’s Lightweight (under 120 #) class. Women typically use weights about half the weight of the Men’s weights.
The Clachneart or “Stone”
This ancient event is similar to the modern day shotput, using a stone approximately 16 to 28 pounds instead of a steel ball. The stone must be put from the front of the shoulder using one hand only. Each competitor is allowed a seven-and-a-half foot run-up to the toe-board or trig for the Open Stone. The Braemar style of stone puts allows no approach. The contestants are judged on the longest of the three tosses. If the athlete touches the top of the trig or the ground in front of it during his attempt, the toss not counted.
The 28 and 56 pound throw
Using metal weights with a chain or handle attached, the athletes are throwing for distance. The weight is thrown one-handed from behind the trig with a nine-foot run up allowed. Any style may be used but the most popular and efficient is to spin like a discus thrower. The contestants are judged on the longest of three tosses If the athlete touches the top of the trig or the ground in front of it during his attempt, the throw is not counted.
The 56# Weight Toss
The objective of this strength event is to toss the 56# weight with attached handle over a horizontal bar of variable height. The starting height of competition is the lowest agreed upon by the competitors. Using only one hand, each athlete is allowed three attempts to clear the bar at each height. If the weight touches the bar on its way over but doesn’t dislodge it, it remains a successful toss. All measurements are made from the ground to the top of the bar midway between the uprights. As the bar is raised, the field of athletes is reduced. This event continues until all competitors but one are eliminated.
The Scottish hammer, a round metal hammer head weighing 16# or 22# with a cane or PVC shaft, is thrown for distance. The athlete throws the hammer with his back to the trig and the throwing area. The competitors feet may not move until after he releases the hammer. Each athlete gets three throws with the hammer and is judged by his best distance. Touching the top of the trig or the ground in front of it renders the throw foul.
The Sheaf Toss
Using a pitchfork, the athletes hurl a 20# burlap bag stuffed with straw over a horizontal bar raised between two standards. Each competitor is given three chances to clear the bar. After all attempts, the bar is raised in one to two foot increments. The continually rising bar reduces the field as competition continues until all but one athlete are eliminated.
The centerpiece of the modern Highland Games, the caber requires strength, balance and timing. The caber is a tapered log approximately 16-20 feet long and weighing 60# to 140# (These weights and measures vary at different games depending on the field of athletes and the terrain). The athlete hoists the caber and folds his hands under the end while cradling it against his shoulder. Gaining the balance of the upright caber, he will run briefly with it to gain momentum for the toss. Followed by field judges, the competitor heaves the caber up and over to ground its heavy end and let it fall forward. The field judge will ascribe a “score” to the toss. If the caber is “tumed” it will be scored with its landing position relative to the face of a giant clock. 12:00 being a perfect score. If the caber doesn’t tum over, it is scored by the degree it rose from the ground.