Some of the Most Popular Events at the Highland Games

Nowadays, the Highland Games include competitions with a bit of a modern twist such as sheep-dog trials, cycling, wellie-throwing, and marathon races. However, the tradition “heavy competitions”, which have been part of the games for centuries still remain and are some of the most popular events. Below we are going to take a closer look at some of these popular heavy games.

Rory Cameron competes in the Cabre Toss as the Glengarry Highland Games begin on Friday to celebrate the 71st year. Photo by Wayne Cuddington/ Postmedia

Tossing the Caber

This is probably the most popular heavy lifting event at the Highland Games. This event is the perfect test of a competitor’s control, balance, strength, and technique. Nobody knows how this game came into being. Some believe that this is how the Scottish used to quickly bridge streams or rivers, while others believe that the Scots used to flip large logs against the walls of castles as a means of breaching defences. There are other beliefs too, but we will never know the true origin.

The caber is a long log, between 15-20-feet and weighing in at 100-180 pounds. The contestants have to lift the log vertically, by cupping their hands under one end. They then have to run forward and toss the caber up in the air. The caber should spin in the air and the top should hit the grass first. This event is not judged on how far the caber is thrown; it is judged on the final position of the caber. To give you an idea of the perfect throw, imagine a clock face on the grass. If the competitor tosses the caber from number 6, the perfect throw would be if the caber lands on the number twelve, with the end that he was holding facing away from him.

Hammer Throw

This event may go all the way back to the 13th century when King Edward I of England made it illegal for the people of Scotland to own a weapon. Nobody considered a hammer to be a weapon, but the people of Scotland turned it into one. In the Highland Games, the hammer is not really a hammer – it is a 22lbs metal ball that is attached to a long wooden pole. The contestants have to swing the hammer over their head and throw it as far as possible. Some of the best competitors can throw this hammer over 100 feet, which is really impressive.


This is one of the oldest games in the world, having been played in ancient Greece and China way back in 500-800 BC. Prior to 1920, it was even an Olympic event. This is a simple game, but it is highly popular at the Highland Games. In this game, two teams that consist of eight strong men try to drag the other team across a white line. It is the best out of three and usually uses a round robin approach. This game is a blend of attitude, technique, strength, and adrenaline. The team that goes on to win the most matches will be declared the strongest team and the winners of the event.

Last modified: 12 March 2021