Scottish Highland Cattle

Filed Under: Cows, General Care

Resembling a cross between the American Longhorn and a Yak, the Scottish Highland breed is ancient and is one of the purest and rarest breeds of cattle known today. It is estimated that their numbers are fewer than 10,000 worldwide, with most of the population surviving in the United States and Canada.

Scottish Highland cattle date back to the sixth century. They are believed to be the product of blending two ancient Asiatic breeds: the Bos primigenius and the Bos longifrons.

In spite of their “handlebar” horns, these cattle are non-combative and very docile. Believed to be the smartest breed of cattle, they are easily halter trained.

This breed is capable of surviving the harshest of winters due to their warm double coats. The outer layer is long and coarse, while the inner layer is wooly. Instead of putting on layers of fat for warmth they grow hair. The long hair over their eyes, also known as the dossan, helps protect their eyes so that even pinkeye is rare.

Little shelter is required to protect them from the weather. Even a good stand of trees may provide sufficient coverage against harsh winter conditions while inversely maintaining much needed shade in the summer.   

Scottish Highland cattle come in a variety of colors including red, black, yellow, white, brindle, silver, or dun.     

Have a poor pasture? Highland cattle are the perfect animals to raise if you want to put little expense and effort into correcting those pasture conditions. This breed of cattle can survive on the poorest of grazing conditions, even to the point of living on and clearing brush. Scottish Highland cattle can maintain a good body condition on poor pasture, but unfortunately they are a slow-growing breed.   

Cows are exceptionally devoted and protective mothers. Scottish Highland cattle are noted for their ease at calving. Calves are rather small at birth, typically weighing 40 to 60 pounds. Due to their smaller calf size they rarely require calving assistance.

The meat produced by the Scottish Highland cattle is lean but of good quality, is well marbled, and has a great taste. The beef is significantly lower in fat and cholesterol, while higher in protein and iron than beef from other breeds of cattle. Highland cattle are often crossed with Angus cattle to produce a top quality beef. Reportedly the British Royal family maintains a herd of Highland cattle at Balmoral Castle and considers them to be their beef animal of choice. Eating Highlander beef allows the commoner to eat like royalty.


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