This breed of beef cattle originates from the Scottish Highlands. With its characteristic shaggy hair, long forelocks, and long horns, it is not easily forgotten. It has a unique double hair coat (coarse outer layer and wooly inner layer). This coat helps it to easily handle cold and rainy climates, but it can shed its thick coat to thrive in hot and humid weather as well.
In Recovering Status by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. For a full description of Heritage and Heirloom Foods, check out this post.
This is a breed I am strongly considering adding to my land... one day. I had a chance to talk to a couple who raised Highlands on their farm in Minnesota. They loved them. This breed has a lot of attributes that are beneficial for small farmers. On top of that, their beef is delicious!
Award winning cow and her calf.
Medium sized beef cattle
Cows 3 - 3.5 feet at the shoulders
Bulls 3.5 - 4 ft as the shoulders
Cows 900 - 1,300 lbs
Bulls 1,500 - 2,000 lbs
Calves 60-70 lbs (that's small - makes for easier delivery)
Solid Red is most common
Solid Black, Brindle, Cream, Dun, Yellow, White, and Silver are all traditional colors.
Cows - sweep out and up
Bulls - horizontal with upturned tips
Developed mainly through natural selection in the Scottish Highlands and Scottish Western Isles where rugged land, strong winds, and high rainfall produced a sturdy breed. The Highland was standardized and improved in the 1800's. This is a rather unique breed, because the improvement was made using only Highland cattle. No other breeds were cross-breed with the Highland for improving the breed characteristics. The Highland cattle registry was established in 1885. Their other name, Kyloe, comes from the Scottish term for strait, the bodies of water the cattle had to swim across to make it to market.
Of interest, a group of Highlands is called a fold (instead of the more common term, herd).
- Beef is of high flavor
- Lean meat - Most of their insulation comes from their shaggy coat and not fat. According to the Scottish Agricultural College, Highland beef has lower fat and cholesterol and higher protein and iron content than other beef breeds.
- Medium sized cattle
- Easy handling - Scots used to keep the family cow inside their home in the winter!
- Strong maternal abilities - Highly devoted and protective mothers.
- Efficient reproduction - Noted for their ease with calving
- Very hardy
- Long lived
- Thrive in cold, wet climates
- Thrives on rough forage - will graze and browse in areas that other cattle will not and can consume a wide variety of "pest" plants. Often used in Europe to improve pastures before the more developed (i.e. fragile) breeds of cattle are moved in.
Highlands are excellent mothers.
For more information on Highland cattle, check out the American Highland Cattle Association.