Poles Tossed By Scots

“Can you explain about Poles tossed by Scots?” is a question many people from other countries ask us. I think sometimes people envisage every Scotsman wondering around the street tossing poles , but of course, this isn't the case . In a typical Highland Games, it's part of Athletic Events.

Other categories include the Dancing Events, and of course there is something quite wonderful about listening to the pipe bands in the Music Events. When watching the bands marching with their kilts swaying you may find yourself pondering over the age-old question of "What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?" You may see others not in Highland dress but still wearing tartan and if you're not sure what the difference is between plaid and tartan click HERE to find out. Do check out Highland Games in Fife - for this year's venues for the games in the Kingdom.

The origins of "tossing the caber" are not clear although there have been a number of theories; the most likely is that it was a sport amongst foresters that became part of the Traditional Highland Games events.

The word caber (or cabar in Gaelic) can vary enormously. There are no exact standards for cabers ie standards which specify the length, weight, type of wood, density, circumference, etc. However, in general, the cabers used in competitions vary in all these measurements as each Highland Games event has their own set of cabers of varying weight and length.

However a traditional caber is usually around 16–20 feet (5–6 m) long and weighs around 80–130 pounds (35–60 kg). One End can be around 9 inches (23 cms) thick, while it might be around 5 inches (13 cms) at the other. The size, and particularly the length, of the caber means that enormous strength is required simply to balance it vertically, and even more is required to toss it.

"Poles tossed by Scots"
Tossing the Caber

poles tossed by scots

Visitors sometimes think the caber is thrown for distance, but in fact it is for "style". The Games officials will set the caber on its end with the thickest portion in the air. The athlete rests the caber against his shoulder vertically. He clasps his arms around it, with the ‘bottom end’ in the athlete’s hands, and then lifts it up, keeping it carefully balanced. He then runs forward and flicks it up quickly, moving his hands under the narrow end and throws it so that it turns over 180 degrees, end-over-end in the air and lands on the former ‘top’ side.

A perfect throw ends with the 'top' end nearest to the thrower and the 'bottom' end pointing exactly away. If the throw is not perfect, it is scored by viewing the caber as though it were a hand on the clock. The ideal position is 12:00. A caber pointing to 11:00 would get a better score than one pointing to 10:30. If the caber lands on its end and falls back towards the thrower, the score is lower than for any throw that falls away from the thrower but will be based upon the maximum vertical angle that the caber achieved. An angle of 87° is better than 75°. And as you can imagine, the athlete needs to move out the way pretty fast if the caber falls backwards!

Watching a stong man dressed in a kilt 'Tossing the Caber" or "Poles tossed by Scots" is an amazing sight. Try and get to see it if you can.

If you've found this page "Poles tossed by Scots" interesting, see also the following:-

Athletic Events - Highland Games Categories always include a variety of athletic or sporting competition.
Dancing Events - Learn more about the Dancing competitions, always a joy to see, and again featured in every Highland Games.
Music Events - Learn a wee bit more about the different Music Events which are a common feature in all Highland Games.
Highland Games in Fife - for this year's venues for the games in the Kingdom.
Tartan, Plaid and Kilts - A brief look at Scottish Tartan and Plaid.
Underneath Men's Kilts - A quick look at the age-old question, and the fascination people have about what Scotsmen wear under their kilt.
Kilts and Flashes - A brief look at the history of the kilt.
Tartan Clothes from Scotland - A summary of some of the tartan clothes that come from Scotland.

Return from Poles tossed by Scots to Highland Games Categories

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