A Bunch of Tossers

The Caber Toss

Few things put the “games” in Highland Games more than the caber toss. If you’ve ever been to a Scottish Festival, you probably had trouble missing those imposing men and women — also known as “throwers” or “tossers” — doing their able best to flip a telephone pole end over end.

Like pretty much all traditional Highlands sports (including the hammer throw, stone put and sheaf toss), the caber toss involves one thing: throwing something heavy. In this case, the something is a caber, a term which comes from “kaber” or “cabar” — a Gaelic for “wooden beam.” Weighing in between 100 to 180 pounds, this monstrous wooden pole can measure up to 22 feet in length.

To get the event started, the caber is stood up for the tosser with the large end in the air and the narrower, rounded end pointing down. The athlete cups the caber’s end in his or her hands and hoists the pole. After a short run, the competitor stops, jerks the caber forward and upward, attempting to flip the beam end over end. The success of the attempt is measured based on the hours on a clock face. If the caber actually flips, a perfect 12:00 is scored. If the attempt fails to flip the pole, a side judge determines the degree of the angle the caber makes with the ground. This partial success is measured in hour and minute increments, such as 10:30.

Want to learn more? Check out this fantastic instructional video from Visit Scotland. If you’d like to see these amazing athletes in action, visit my friends at County Argyle at one of their Highland games stops this year.

Do you have any questions about Highland Games or where to find one near you? Drop me a line — I’d love to hear from you.

Love a good murder? Be sure to take a stab at Thou Shalt Not Kilt, a traditional Southern cozy with Scottish flavor. For my latest news and book updates, follow me on Instagram and TikTok, and sign up for Fatal Fiction, my monthly mystery newsletter — plus, you’ll get a free downloadable copy of Masters of Murder, my guide to the detectives and authors of mystery’s Golden Age!

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Masters of Murder by Liam Ashe