Caber Toss


The caber toss is a traditional Scottish athletic event in which competitors toss a large tapered pole called a “caber”. It is normally practiced at the Scottish Highland Games. In Scotland, the caber is usually made from a Larch tree and is typically 19 feet 6 inches (5.94 m) tall and weighs 175 pounds (79 kg). The term “caber” derives from the Gaelic word cabar, which refers to a wooden beam.

The person tossing the caber is called a “tosser” or a “thrower”.

It is said to have developed from the need to toss logs across narrow chasms (in order to cross them), lumberjacks needing to transport logs by throwing them in streams, or by lumberjacks challenging each other to a small contest.

The record for most caber tosses in three minutes is currently held by the Canadian Danny Frame. He managed to perform 16 successful caber tosses on 20 July 2018 at the Heart of the Valley Festival in Middleton, Nova ScotiaCanada.


The hero of my latest release, Kilted Lover, tosses cabers at the Scottish Games. I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the history of the caber toss and see why it was invented.

But first, what is the caber toss? It is a heavy athletic event at Highland/Scottish Games. A caber is a 15 – 23 feet long log, usually peeled, weighing between 70 and 200 pounds (depending on who you ask, and the type of tree). The athlete squats with his feet flat on the ground and wedges the caber between his shoulder and neck, pushes upward with his hands, and lifts it slightly, just enough to slide his interlocked hands beneath the smaller end. (During the event, no one can assist him in lifting it.) Then, with the caber resting against his shoulder, he lifts and stands upright. He must balance the log in the air. Remember, the heavier, larger end of the log is up, so he may stagger around a bit until it is balanced. He takes a short run forward and flips the log in the air. He must make the large end hit the ground and the small end flip over and land straight ahead, away from him. This is an event of accuracy rather than distance, so it doesn’t matter how far he throws it. For the best score, the small end of the caber needs to land at the 12 o’clock position, straight out from the thrower.

Caber tossing, also called turning the caber, or the “tossing (or casting) of ye barr” was first recorded as an athletic event in Scotland at a 1574 “wappinschawes” (weapon-showings) which were sporting contests of strength, agility and speed which related to military prowess.

As for the history of caber tossing… Round Hill Highland Games website says: “The history of the caber is elusive. The term ‘caber’ derives from the Gaelic word “cabar” or “kaber” which refers to a rafter or beam. The most prominent legend surrounding the origin of the caber toss is that of breaching barriers or crossing streams during wartime. In the Scottish highlands, you often have freezing-cold streams that you need to cross. During battle, the caber was tossed from one side of the stream to the other to quickly make a bridge, allowing fellow Scotsmen to cross and continue on to chase rival clans. This is why the caber is tossed for accuracy, rather than distance.”

This makes perfect sense. Scotland is a very wet place, with many lochs, bogs and streams. It would take lots of practice and great skill to put the caber exactly where it needed to be, across the stream, and not in the stream where it might float away.


The primary objective is to toss the caber so that it turns end over end, falling away from the tosser. Ideally, it should fall directly away from the tosser in the “12 o’clock” position. The distance thrown is unimportant.

The tosser balances the caber upright, tapered end downwards, against his or her shoulder and neck, the caber being supported by stewards or fellow-competitors while being placed into position. The tosser then crouches, sliding his interlocked hands down the caber and under the rounded base, and lifts it in his cupped hands.

While standing he must balance the caber upright; this is not easy with the heavier end at the top, and less-experienced tossers may be unable to stop the caber falling to one side after lifting it. The tosser then walks or runs a few paces forward to gain momentum, and flips the tapered end upwards so that the large end hits the ground first, and, if well tossed, the caber falls directly away from the tosser.

Weight and strength are clearly essential for success, but the technique is also important for balancing the caber when lifting it and flipping up the held (tapered) end to promote a clean toss.


The straightest end-over-end toss scores highest. If the caber lands on its end but falls back towards the thrower, the score is lower than for any end-over-end throw but is based upon the maximum vertical angle that the caber achieved (side-judging may involve a second judge).

End over end tosses are scored according to the hours on a clock, with a 12:00 score being highest (falling directly away from the thrower), down to a 9 or 3 for cabers that reach a vertical, before falling to the side.


The person tossing the caber is called a “tosser” or a “thrower”. It is said to have developed from the need to toss logs across narrow chasms (in order to cross them), lumberjacks needing to transport logs by throwing them in streams, or by lumberjacks challenging each other to a small contest.

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