What are the Highland Games Events?

  • October 26, 2014
  • / By Tom

The Highland games, based on Scottish and Celtic culture, are a unique and exciting celebration. The heavy events, consisting of demonstrations of throwing ability and strength, can draw many athletes and fans.

While many people are interested in the games, they aren’t always sure what all they heavy stuff people are throwing is all about. So what are the Highland Games events?


Highland Games Events

The events are not always the same, depending on which Highland games you have entered. There is also differences for men and women who are amateurs, professionals, or masters athletes.

The heavy events commonly contested are:

  • Caber Toss
  • Sheaf Toss
  • Maide Leisg
  • Stone Put
  • Hammer Throw
  • Weight Throw
  • Weight over Bar

Caber Toss

This is the thing that makes it looks like people are carrying around a telephone pole. The caber is a long piece of wood, somewhere between 16 and 22 feet tall. It is between 100 and 180 pounds. The goal is to flip the caber to the 12 o’clock position after a build-up run.

This video shows Daniel McKim performing an excellent caber toss in 2011:

Sheaf Toss

This is the event that looks like the athlete is pitching straw. It consists of a pitch fork being used to toss the sheaf over a bar. The sheaf is commonly made with straw or other materials and weighs 16 or 20 pounds. There is a video example of the sheaf toss below.

Maide Leisg

Huh? Maide leisg means “lazy stick” in Scots Gaelic. This is something of a seated tug-of-war. Two competitors sit with their feet against each other, both holding the stick. They attempt to lift the other person off the ground by pulling the stick. This is less common at most games..

Stone Put

There are 2 types of stone puts: open and Braemer. The open is between 16 and 22 pounds and allows for any style of throw. Most competitors throw this the same as they would a shot put, with either the glide or spin technique. The Braemer stone is between 22 and 28 pounds and is thrown from a stand. This is done similar to a standing shot put throw. Both stones can be challenging to grip, as they do not have smooth, even dimensions.

The video below is some old-school footage of former shot putter Brian Oldfield competing in the open stone put, using his spin technique. If you were wondering, he does eventually get the grip right and start throwing at about the 45 second mark.

Hammer Throw

This is quite a bit different from the hammer throw in track and field. The athlete must remain with both feet on the ground during the duration of the throw. They wind the hammer overhead, usually 3 times, and let it go. The hammer itself is made with a solid handle and metal head.

Here is a video of Daniel McKim throwing the heavy hammer:

Weight Throw

There is both a “heavy” 56 pound weight and a “light” 28 pound weight. Light is obviously a relative term here. These implements are thrown with one hand. A discus style technique is used, with a double spin to gain momentum and leverage against the weight. This is a very tricky event, as it can be quite painful if you don’t know what you are doing. Heaving a 56 pound weight with one hand is no joke.

In the video below, McKim throws the American Record in the light weight for distance.

Weight over Bar

The weight used for this is a shorter version of the weight for difference. The big difference is that this is thrown for height rather than distance. One hand is used in this event also. The thrower attempts to clear a bar that is positioned overhead without knocking it over.


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