8 Fun Facts about Scottish Highland Cow
Highland cows are often referred to as Scotland’s gentle giants. These iconic beasts are easily identified by their long horns and flowing red locks, but how much do you really know about them? This article will go into greater detail about the magnificent creatures, and we are confident that by the end, you will be as udder-ly in love with them as we have!
Fun fact 1: Highland Cow fact: The Highland Cow is the world’s oldest registered breed of cattle!
How Do You Identify Scottish Highland Cattle?
They have distinctive horns and long, wavy, woolly coats that can be red, ginger, black, dun, yellow, white, grey, tan, silver, or brindle in color. Highland cows are raised primarily for their meat, which is growing in popularity due to being lower in cholesterol than other forms of beef.
These are tough cattle, bred to withstand the harsh conditions of the Scottish Highlands. Their long hair is actually an unusual double coat of hair, with the longest oily outer hair of any cattle breed covering a downy undercoat underneath. The bulls can way up to a whopping 800kg, and the cows up to 500kg, and their milk generally has a very high butterfat content.
Their distinctive long hair keeps them warm in the winter, protects them from brush and undergrowth, keeps flies away from their eyes, and contributes to their stunning appearance, which makes them so popular. When they are bred in southern climates, their hair grows shorter in the summer and is not as long. Because they have such long hair, they do not need to store the waste fat that some other breeds of cattle do.
Fun fact 2: Nobody knows for sure if these cows can see where they’re going! But, whether they have super-vision or enhanced other senses, they always find what they’re looking for, even with that long fringe known as a ‘dossan’ in the way!
The Origins of Highland Cows
Thousands of highland cattle grazed on the forests and hills of Strathspey in the 18th century, and in the summer they were even taken up into the high Corries. Herdsmen stayed in temporary structures called shielings in the hills to care for them, while their relatives had to stay at home to gather crops for their winter feeds.
When the cattle were fat enough for market, they were driven along drove roads, which are mountain trackways. They only walked a few miles each day, staying in the same positions every night so the animals could graze and stay safe.
Buyers came all the way from England to pay good prices for what they called high-quality ‘Scotch runts’ at markets in Falkirk, Crieff, and Carlisle. Because Highland cattle were smaller, they were given this name. In one early 1800s market, £30,000 changed hands, which is a fortune by today’s standards
While Highland Cows are now mostly known for their distinctive red coats, they used to be mostly black.
Fun fact 3: Queen Victoria is said to have commented on a trip to the Highlands that she preferred red-colored cattle, which resulted in selective breeding of the reddish color that we see most often today, with the black color gradually declining over time. The breed was originally divided into two classes: West Highlands or Kyloe and Highlander.
The breed was originally divided into two classes: West Highlands or Kyloe and Highlander.
The Kyloes were raised on Scotland’s western islands and were typically smaller in stature. They possessed a higher proportion of black and brindled cattle than mainland Highlanders. The size difference was most likely caused by the harsh climate and limited rations endured by the island cattle, rather than any genetic variation between the classes. Today, all members of the breed are simply referred to as Highland.
Where can you find Highland Cows?
They first appeared in the Scottish Highlands and Outer Hebrides islands as early as the sixth century. They can now be found in the south of Scotland, other parts of Europe, as well as Australia and North and South America. Highland Cattle can even be found grazing 10,000 feet above sea level in the Andes!
Fun fact 4: If you are looking for the Highland Cow while visiting their homeland, you may have better luck if you ask the locals to point you in the direction of the “Hairy Coos,” as they are affectionately known locally.
These magnificent beasts are frequently spotted in fields along the roadside throughout the Highlands, particularly in places like the Cairngorms National Park, or roaming free on the road itself across the North West.
What is the purpose of Highland Cows?
Milk from Highland Cows
Highland cows can be milked on a small scale; they will never produce as much milk as a production milk cow, but enough for personal use; one cow can produce about 2 gallons of milk per day on average. Their milk contains up to 10% butterfat, which some farmers may find appealing, but others have stated is a required taste! Highland cattle have much smaller teats than other breeds.
Meat from Highland Cattle
Many farmers keep the Hairy Coos for breeding purposes. Their meat is lean but well marbled, and is considered premium beef. Pure Highland beef is not cheap. Due to its fine texture, succulent flavor, and high protein content, pure Highland beef commands a premium price. Numerous tests in Scotland have revealed that Highland Cattle meat contains less fat and cholesterol than chicken! It is also high in iron.
Fun fact 5: The Queen owns a herd of Highland Cattle, which are said to be the only type of beef she will eat!
Scotch beef farming is not like intensive cattle farming; the system prioritizes animal welfare and well-being. Highland Cattle farming is considered highly environmentally sustainable due to the grazing land being frequently unsuitable for growing alternative foods, as well as the low temperature and high rainfall.
Highland Cows that have been crossbred
The market for high-quality meat is shrinking as consumers seek lower-cost alternatives. To combat this decline in popularity, Highland “suckler” cows are increasingly being bred with other breeds, such as a Shorthorn or Limousin bull. This results in a crossbred beef calf with the tender beef of its mother but at a lower market price.
These crossbred beef suckler cows retain the hardiness, thriftiness, and fantastic mothering abilities of their Highland mothers while being more commercially friendly. They can then be crossed with a modern beef bull, such as a Limousin or a Charolair, to continue producing high-quality beef.
Displaying Highland Cows (also known as fluffy cows)
For showing purposes, Highland cattle can be sometimes groomed with oils and conditioners to give the coats a fluffy appearance, similar to that of their calves, leading to the affectionate nickname of ‘fluffy cows’.
The breed standards guidelines, which are used to ensure that the animals produced by a breeder are of the highest quality, include guidance on how to judge the animals in four major areas: the head, neck, back and body, and hair. Natural horns, being wide between the eyes, short and straight legs, and wavy hair are among the criteria considered.
Fun fact 6: The horns are the most noticeable difference between the sexes. A bull’s horns frequently grow forwards or even slightly downwards and have a much wider base, whereas a cow’s horns face upwards and are longer and finer at the tip.
Are Highland Cows Friendly?
Yes, in a nutshell! These fantastic beasts are known for their fantastic temperament; there isn’t a moo-dy cow in sight!
They are known for being a very docile animal that never shows aggression and is very easy to keep and manage. They understand their own social hierarchy within their herds and never fight. They also enjoy human company, frequently approaching walkers in search of affection.
They’ve even been raised as pets! Highlanders have coexisted with humans for thousands of years, with written records dating back to 1200-AD and archeological finds dating back to 1200-BC. Previously, in the winter, cows would come into the house and their body heat would help warm it. This had the additional benefit of preventing others from stealing them.
Fun fact 7: A herd is the collective name for a group of cows. A group of Highland cattle, on the other hand, is known as a ‘fold,’ named after the open shelters they can be kept in during the winter.
What do Highland Cows consume?
Highlands can be entirely grass-fed; they will survive on roughage and poor grazing, including brush if necessary. Breeders, on the other hand, will frequently supplement with good hay, straw, green feed, or silage in the winter, or they may have their own unique diets for their herd that they swear by, ranging from strictly grass and hay diets to cereal grains, barley, wheat, or corn silage, or even peas and turnips! Farmers may use additional mineral supplements, particularly for pregnant cows and mothers with calves.
In general, these beasts will thrive as long as they have access to plenty of fresh water. Highland Cattle are excellent scavengers, eating almost anything with food value, including poison ivy, honeysuckle vines, tree leaves they can reach, and cedar trees. In fact, when they’re hungry, they’ll clean up entire forests as high as they can. These wonderful hardy animals can thrive in poor pastures where other cattle would perish.
Calves from Highland Cattle
The only time approaching the Highland Cow is generally not a good idea is when she is with her calf. These beautiful animals are known for being excellent mothers who can be defensive and protective of their young.
Fun fact 8: Mother Highlands are known for regularly reproducing after the age of 18 and raising 15 or more calves in their lifetime! That’s impressive, isn’t it? I’d rather they than I!
They calve alone with no assistance, giving birth to small calves weighing 50-75 pounds on average, but they grow quickly once born. Calving complications such as caesarean and prolapse are reduced by the calves’ moderate bone structure and slim conformation, as well as the cow’s wide pelvic.
It is not just the mothers who look after their calves and protect them from predators; the entire fold will prioritize them.
That’s all there is to it…
Maybe the next time you see one of these photogenic animals with their just-out-of-bed hairstyles, you’ll look past their beauty and remember all the other reasons for their’super-coo’ status!
Highland cows thrive in environments where many feebler cows cannot exist, they live in freezing and wet weather, and they contribute economically to Scotland’s most remote areas by making use of poor grazing land.
They also live longer than other breeds, produce leaner meat, and, most importantly, have a much friendlier temperament. They are a breed that is exceptionally hardy, robust, and absolutely beautiful, making them more than deserving of their worldwide popularity…. Oh, and the Queen concurs!
Topic: 8 Fun Facts about Scottish Highland Cow
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By: Travel Pixy