The origin of highland games dates back to the 11th Century during the time of King Malcolm III of Scotland. As reported in various highland games programs, the king organized a foot race contest that was held during the Craig Choinnich summit. The reason behind the contest was to identify the fastest runner to be his formal messenger. Though this is a mythical tale, many people believe that it is the derivation of modern highland games. Basically, highland games originated in Scotland but today’s games are mainly a Victorian creation.
Highland games are usually held in summer and spring in Scotland, but they are also practiced in other countries as a method of celebrating Celtic and Scottish culture. The game has various aspects that trace characteristics of Scottish Highland culture. These aspects include the kilt, bagpipes, and heavy events such as caber toss. While they involve competitions in dancing, piping, drumming, and heavy athletics, highland games also include exhibits and entertainment events related to Scottish culture.
In every August, Cowal Games, also known as Cowal Highland Gathering, are held in Dunoon. It is said to be the largest highland games in the world as it attracts more than 3,000 contestants and around 20,000 fans from different countries. Apart from the huge fan base in Scotland, highland games are also popular in the United States, especially in North Carolina where more than 30,000 fans attend the better known Grandfather Mountain. The event takes place annually since 1866 and it is hosted by Caledonian Club in San Francisco.
Types of Highland Games Events
For many centuries, sports and athletics have been the core competitions in highland games. Though there are other events incorporated in these games, many people consider athletics as the main component of highland games. This is simply because athletics are the ‘games’ while other events are normally entertainment festivities. For that reason, athletic competitions remain to be a major integral part of highland game events, especially the caber toss that is solely characterized as the symbol of highland games.
Below are a few of the standard events of highland games;
This involves balancing a long log (caber) upright whereby a competitor hoists it vertically while holding the smaller end. The competitor runs while attempting to toss the log to turn end-over-end so that the larger upper end strikes the ground first. The smaller end is expected to hit the ground in a 12 o’clock position, which is measured in regard to the direction a competitor is running. The athlete is said to have turned the caber if the tossing and striking turns successful.
Stone put is almost similar to modern shot put in Olympic Games. Instead of using a steel shot, a stone of variable weight is used. The stone put techniques are two versions; Braemar Stone and Open Stone. For the Braemar Stone, a 20 to 26 lb stone is used for men while a 13 to 18 lb stone is used for women. On the other hand, Open Stone uses a 16 to 22 lb stone for men and a 8 to 12 lb stone for women.
Scottish hammer throw
It is almost similar to modern day hammer throw in the field and track competitions. The Scottish event uses a metal round ball of 16 to 22 lb and 12 to 16 lb for men and women respectively. The ball is attached to a 4 feet shaft, which can be of different materials such as bamboo, wood, plastic, or rattan. The ball is whirled about a thrower’s head and then thrown for a distance over the shoulder.
Weight throw is also referred to as weight for distance event. The event has two categories depending on the experience and ability of the player. One event is a lightweight throw, usually 28 lb and 14 lb for men and women respectively. The second event is for heavier weight of 56 lb and 42 lb for masters men and women respectively. The weights are metallic with an attached handle. The throwers must use one hand, but no restriction by which technique is employed while throwing.
Weight over the bar
Weight over the bar is also referred to as weight for height. An athlete attempts to toss a 56-pound weight using one hand. Every athlete is allowed to make only three trials at each height. Once an athlete clears a certain height, he or she advances to the next round (greater height).
In conclusion, many people who participate in the above games are the former field and track college athletes. These Scottish highland games allow them to continue pursuing their careers. However, the highland games have also become popular in the USA, which has led to the development of more heavy game classes.