The Highland Games: 1900 – 1962

The Scottish have always had great pride in everything they’ve done. So, naturally, being good at throwing logs was worthy of it’s own games in the Highland’s! I joke, but by and large it’s well regarded that the Highland Games were part of the modern Olympic Games revival…

Yes, that’s a log in the air.

Scotland’s Highland Games first became regular events in the Victorian period. The main event of the games is, to this day, the daunting feat of strength known as the caber toss. A tosser hefts a long wooden log called a caber, which can be up to 20 feet long and weigh 175 pounds. Cupping one tapered end in his hands and balancing the caber upright against his shoulder, the tosser must run forward and heave it with all his strength to make it flip over and land upright on its opposite end.

The games also include Scottish variants on familiar Olympic events like shot put and hammer throw. In fact, it is claimed that the Highland Games, as displayed at the Paris Exhibition of 1889, were one of Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s inspirations for the modern revival of the Olympic Games.

In addition to displays of strength and athleticism, the games also feature celebrations of Scottish and Celtic culture, including massive bagpipes performances and “sword dances,” where a dancer leaps and twirls over a pair of crossed swords.

With the global diaspora of Scots and Celts, Highland Games have spread widely, and are today held around the world, from Europe and North America to New Zealand and Brazil.

As technology has progressed, so has Sport. Logs are now better used as logs and we’ve decided to chuck around spear-like javelin instead! But as you see, many of the modern day Olympic games stemmed from the Highland Games. If you would like to learn more about Sport through the ages, take a look through our Sport courses here at The Sheffield College.


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