Shinty is played with 2 teams of 12 players using curved wooden sticks or camans. Each team is allowed 3 substitutions and the match is played in 2 halves of 45 minutes. The pitch must be between 140 and 170 yards long and 70-80 yards wide. The goals are 12 feet high and 10 yards wide and the ball is 7.5-8inches circumference and weighs between 2.5 and 3oz. The game is more physical than hockey and both sides of the caman can be used. Players are allowed to block the opposing players swing and stop the ball with their feet although they are not allowed to kick it.
Shinty has its roots in the mists of time with different versions of the game played even in neighbouring straths. The first attempt to standardise the rules came in 1879 when the Glasgow Celtic Society started a cup competition and established rules for the competing teams. Also at the same time Captain Chisolm of Glassburn wrote "The Constitution, Rules and Regulations of the Strathglass Shinty Club" published in 1880. A revised edition of the Strathglass rules became the standard in the north while the Glasgow Celtic Society rules were used in the south.
In 1893 after a game between Kingussie and Glasgow Cowal it became clear that there should be one governing authority for shinty and in October 1893 the Camanachd Association was formed with Lord Lovat as president. The Camanachd Cup competition was first held in 1896 with Kingussie winning the first final. This is the premier competition in shinty and the final has been televised on the BBC including recently live coverage. Newtonmore are the most successful side with 28 Camanachd Cup wins.
There are other cups competed for; The Sir William Sutherland Cup began in 1922 as a national junior competition, The Glasgow Celtic Society still run the oldest cup for the South clubs and the MacTavish Cup was established in 1898 for the North clubs. Their is also an open senior cup run by The MacAulay Association since 1947. There are also several competitions run by the Schools Camanachd Association.
Leagues were run separately by the North and South Associations until 1981 when all independent bodies agreed to work together under the Camanachd Association. The league continued to be separated between north and south clubs with a national league final between the two champions. In 1995 a new 8 team premier league was introduced with 4 teams from the north and 4 from the south. There are district teams which lead to selection for the national side in an annual Shinty-Hurling international between Scotland and Ireland.
The Guinness book of records recognises Kingussie Camanachd Club as the most successful sports club in the world for its run of 18 consecutive league titles.
In an effort to develop young players between the ages of 8 and 14 First Shinty has been developed with modified equipment and simplified rules. It can be played inside or outdoors with smaller teams on smaller pitches.
A particular challenge has been keeping players interested in the 12-15 age group as there is a lack of competition and secondary schools have not been willing to include shinty in the curriculum. The North area plans to introduce an under 14 league to provide regular competition using grass pitches in autumn and spring and all weather pitches at Dingwall, Fort William and Inverness during the winter.