The Highland Cattle breed has a unique look that causes the cow to look rustic and cute. Even individuals who are not well versed in the cattle industry often recognized the Highland Cattle because of its distinctive look, complete with shaggy hair and long horns.

In addition to looking cute, the cattle are known for producing high quality beef, though the demand for their beef has been declining over the years. Nevertheless, many breeders still love keeping Highlands on hand due to their hardy nature small stature, especially small scale farmers.

To learn more about the Highland Cattle breed, keep reading. This article explains the origins, characteristics, and uses of these unique looking cattle.

hoof print divider

Quick Facts about Highland Cattle Breed

Highland Cattle
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay
Breed Name:Highland Cattle, Bos taurus taurus
Place of Origin:Scotland
Uses:Meat, showing
Bull (Male) Size:800 kg, 3.5 – 4 ft
Cow (Female) Size:600 kg, 3 – 3.5 ft
Color:Black, dun, red, ginger, yellow, white, gray, and silver
Lifespan:20 years
Climate Tolerance:Hardy, can withstand intemperate conditions
Care Level:Beginner to intermediate
Distributions:Worldwide, though most common in Scotland and the US

hoof print divider

Highland Cattle Breed Origins

Highland Cow
Image Credit: 165106, Pixabay

The Highland Cattle breed originated from the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides, which are islands around the coast of Scotland. Both areas have pretty tough conditions, and the cattle evolved to be hardy and resistant to cold and wet weather as a result.

It is believed that the Highland Cattle descended from Hamitic Longhorns, which were brought over in the second Millennium BCE by Neolithic farmers. Historically, this breed has been of utmost economic importance and were primarily raised on small farms and sold as meat for England.

Because of their Scottish ancestry, the breed also has Scottish Gaelic and Scottish names, which are Bò Ghàidhealach and Hielan Coo, respectively. Some other names for this breed include the Long-Haired Highland Cattle, Long-Haired Scotting Cattle, North Highland Cattle, and Scottish Cattle.

Highland Cattle Breed Characteristics

The Highland Cattle breed is hard to overlook or miss. It has long, wired, wavy, and woolly coats. This coat can come in many colors, but the most common are black and dun. The coat is also double layered, with the outside being oily.

The long, double coat helps the cattle to stay warm in the coldest of conditions. Likewise, the double coat helps to protect the cattle from the rainy conditions common in the area since the oily top helps to wick away the moisture.

Highland Cattle have extremely long horns, too. The horns help the cattle scavenge for grass and other edible materials located underneath the snow.

In comparison to many other cattle types, the Highland Cattle breed is pretty small. At most, a Highland bull is typically only four feet tall. To put that in perspective, many other bulls of different breeds are typically 5 feet tall. The females are even smaller, which is normal of most species.

Although smaller than other cows, the Highland Cattle breed has a much longer life expectancy than other breeds. It has a life expectancy of up to 20 years, in comparison to other cows with a life expectancy of 15 years.

Scottish highland cow grazing
Image Credit: Stelogic, Pixabay

hoof print divider


Historically, Highland Cattle have been primarily used as a high-quality meat source. Today, Highland Cattle is still associated with high quality beef, but the need for high quality beef isn’t as high as it used to be.

That to the side, Highland Cattle is still primarily used for meat, and high-quality beef at that. After all, the beef is very tasty and the animal itself is hardy. In addition to meat production, Highland Cattle are often used for showing purposes because of their beautiful and unique look.

Appearance & Varieties

As we’ve already touched on, Highland Cattle have very distinctive looks. The calves are especially cute because they look almost like teddy bears. Even the adult cattle are super cute because of their long code that cascades over their face and body.

There are two varieties of Highland Cattle: Mainland and Island. Both of these species originated in Scotland, though they were bred in different parts of the country. The Mainland and Island breeds look very similar, but they have some distinctive differences.

For starters, Island Highland Cattle tend to be slightly smaller because they had less nutrients on the island. These cattle often have black coats and longer hair to protect them from the islands’ rugged conditions too.

In comparison, Mainland Highland Cattle tend to be larger because their mainland pastureland had more nutrients. These cattle also come in more color variations, but the most common are dun and red. Today, many Mainland Highland Cattle have been crossbred with other species.

Even though Island and Mainland Highland Cattle have differences, they still look very similar since both have long hair, small statures, and large horns. Most amateurs are not able to spot the difference between Mainland and Island Highland Cattle.

A herd of Highland cows grazing
Image Credit: Andhoj, Pixabay

hoof print divider


Although Highland Cattle were once primarily only used in the UK, they can now be found across the globe. They are most common in Scotland and the United States, but these two countries often export the cattle to other countries.

The six most common countries to find Highland Cattle include Scotland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and the United States. In almost all these countries, the Highland Cattle is bred for meat due to its tastiness and hardiness.

It is estimated that there are over 45,000 Highland Cattle around the globe. This number comes from the 45,000 registered Highlands, but there are likely more cows and bulls left unregistered.

hoof print divider

Are Highland Cattle Breed Good for Small-Scale Farming?

The Highland Cattle breed is actually a great breed for small-scale farming. Because of their smaller stature, they don’t need as much space and pastureland to stay happy and healthy.

More so, their hardy nature means that they don’t need as much care and concern as more sensitive species. This fact is beneficial for small-scale farmers because it means you don’t have to worry about your cattle being overly sensitive to the environment and other factors outside of your control.

Many small-scale farmers choose Highland Cattle because they make tasty milk, but they simply cannot produce enough milk for commercial use. The amount of milk these cows produce is perfect for small-scale farms, as well as the amount of meat you can harvest.

In conclusion, the Highland Cattle breed is a favorite among many small-scale farmers. In addition to being highly attractive, these cows are hardy and produce tasty milk and beef. Especially if you live in an area with pretty serious rain or weather conditions, the Highland Cattle breed will be able to withstand nearly everything.

Next on your reading list:

Featured Image Credit: Stevebidmead, Pixabay