Physical culture in the Scottish Highlands.

“Their bodies were splendid, flexible, nimble, skillful, enduring, resistant and yet they had no other tutor in gymnastics but their lives in nature.” Georges Herbert. The Highlander may be characterised a short dexterous individual with reddish or dark hair and fair skin. Tacitus describes the Caledonians as “The red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia point clearly to a German origin” an origin perhaps confirmed by the BBC programme “blood of the Vikings” in its DNA testing of the British population. Jordanes wrote too that the Caledonians had red hair and “loose jointed bodies”(dexterous) the idea of nimble red heads has some pedigree. Highland prisoners from Culloden averaged at 5’4″ a figure confirmed by recruits joining the British army for the seven years war some 10 years later. With a range from 5’1″ to 5’10” the recruits were described as “healthy, young, and well built, but not tall. Highlanders seldom are”.These men would not be drawn from the upper ranks of the society and we may expect tacksmen etc to have been taller and indeed some of these men were true giants over 6′, The terrible climate and increased economic inequality in the highlands of the 17th-18th century surely stunted the growth of the highland people as it did across Europe. Male average height decreased by two inches from earlier periods so we may expect to see the heights of medieval highlanders being closer to an average of 5’6″. Documentation for women’s heights remains elusive but we … read more....

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