The rules of play for shinty are contained in the Camanachd Association's byelaws , but variations to these rules, mainly to do with numbers in a team and the dimensions of the field of play, exist for women's shinty and for children and young people.
In men's shinty there are 12 players in each team – one of whom is always the goalkeeper.
In women's shinty and in some competitions for children and young people, there are fewer players in the team and the pitch dimensions are smaller.
Each player has a caman, or curved stick, and it is with the caman that the small leather ball is struck. A well-struck shinty ball can travel over 100 metres at very high speed.
Competitive shinty is organised into league and knock-out cup competitions at various levels and grades. In the men's game the most coveted trophies are the Camanachd Cup, first played for in 1895 and in women's shinty the ultimate competition is the Valerie Fraser Cup. Both these events take place in September each year.
Internationally shinty is only just developing but an annual match between shinty and the Irish game of hurling (Camogie when played by women) – which have the same historic roots, although each has evolved in its own way – takes place in October. A composite set of rules has been agreed between the Camanachd Association and its Irish counterpart, the Gaelic Athletic Association.