New record set at Scottish haggis hurling championships
Competitor Bill Boyd in Robert Burns era costume throws a haggis during the 2017 World Haggis Hurling Championships at Burns Cottage in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland. (Andy Buchanan/AFP)
Published Monday, January 30, 2017 8:25AM EST
A new record at the World Haggis Hurling Championships was set on Sunday at the home of Robert Burns, as part of festivities to mark the birth of Scotland's national poet.
The championships are held every year around the time of Burns' birthday in his former home town of Alloway, 65 kilometres from Glasgow on the south west coast of Scotland.
Champion Gary McLay, 26, from nearby Kilmarnock, set a new event record by hurling the traditional Scottish pudding 59 metres.
"My previous record last year was 193 so I've beat it by a foot," he said, less than five years after taking up the Scottish sport with his father.
"We came away down, my dad went first and got a good throw and then I went and I beat him and ended up the world champion," McLay said of his rise to the top.
Other haggis hurling events take place in Scotland, including at the Milngavie Highland Games where Lorne Coltart reportedly set an overall world record of 66 metres in 2011.
Haggis is a Scottish dish made by stuffing the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep inside its stomach with onions and oatmeal.
Is is traditionally boiled and served with turnip and potatoes, known in Scotland as "neeps and tatties."
She Yang, a tourist from China, visited Burns Cottage to try her hand at haggis hurling.
"I always read about this online, everywhere, but I never knew it really happened, like, seriously in this way as a competition. It's a very interesting Scottish tradition," she said.
Robert Burns was born in Alloway on January 25, 1759, and his former cottage is now a major tourist attraction.
The front door of the cottage has been boarded up for over a century, but it opened to the public for the first time on Sunday following a refurbishment.
- Haggis legends -
Sheona Cameron, a volunteer guide at Burns Cottage, said: "We have haggis hurling on Burns' birthday because Burns Suppers always have a haggis, and Burns wrote a poem 'Address To The Haggis'."
Despite haggis being a Scottish dish, locals are fond of telling tourists it is a wild creature that roams the Highland hills.
The story goes that there are two species of "Haggis Scoticus" -- one with its left leg shorter than the other which can only run clockwise, and one with a longer right leg that can only run anti-clockwise.
"Some people think it's a living creature, and we in Scotland shoot them and chase them, but we soon tell them the truth," said Cameron.
According to an online survey by haggis manufacturers Hall's of Broxburn in 2003, one-third of US visitors to Scotland believed the wild haggis to be a real creature.
According to legend, haggis hurling began centuries ago after a farmer's wife grew tired of wading through a bog to bring her husband his lunch.
She decided to throw his haggis across the field for him to catch it in his upturned kilt, and since then participants have been disqualified in competition if the haggis is burst and unfit to eat upon landing.
However, in 2004, a former publicist for the World Haggis Hurling Association claimed he invented the game as a publicity stunt in 1977 -- but by the time of his confession the sport had grown in popularity attracting competitors from around the world.