Highland Cattle

Category: Farm

Highland cattle are easily identified by their double coat of thick fur and long horns (which are present in both cows and bulls), which they evolved to endure the harsh winters in the Highlands of Scotland.

Highland Bull

Highland Bull

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Artiodactyla

Family - Bovidae

Subfamily - Bovinae

Genus - Bos

Species - B. taurus

Common Name - Highland Cattle, Bò Ghàidhealach (Scottish Gaelic), Fluffy Cow, Hairy Cow

Characteristics

Highland cattle have very long horns and long shaggy coats. Their coats come in many different colors including red, yellow, black and white. Their outer coat is oily, and is the longest hair of any cattle breed. The undercoat is soft and downy. The fur protects them from the windy, rainy conditions in the Scottish Highlands, and their horns help them dig up plants out of the snow to eat. Males can reach heights of up to four feet tall, and can weigh 1800 lbs.

Breeding

The breed standard for Highland cattle was created in 1885. Breeding stock has been exported to many other continents beginning in the 1900s, including Australia and North America.

Mating occurs year round, with gestation lasting just under 300 days. Typically a single calf is born.

Behavior

These cattle are excellent foragers, grazing in areas that many other cattle avoid because they aren't as well-suited for the environment. Despite their horns, they are known for being docile, calm, and easy to work with. They are well-accustomed to humans and do not stress easily.

Highland cattle have a social hierarchy, with older animals being ranked higher than younger ones, and males being dominant over females.

History

Highland cattle were first mentioned in the 6th century AD, and were descended from longhorn cattle brought to Britain by farmers of the late Stone Age. There were originally two distinct types of Highland: the smaller black kyloe and the larger, variable mainland. They have since been crossbred so that this distinction has disappeared.

Present Status

There are believed to be around 15,000 Highlands in the United Kingdom. They have been exported to the United States, Canada, Australia, Denmark, and Finland.