Although Yaks and Highland Cattles look similar and are sometimes lumped into the same species, these are two different types of animals. They do look alike, but their names should never be used interchangeably. Understanding the differences between these two animals will make it easier to tell them apart, and you will be more likely to properly identify them when you come across them.

To start with, Highland Cattle are classified as being part of the cattle species, while the Yak is classified as being part of the oxen species. Here is everything else that you need to know about the differences between Yaks and Highland Cattles.


Visual Differences

Yak vs Highland Cow - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – Natalia_Kollegova, Pixabay | Right – Pexels, Pixabay

The coats of the Yak and the Highland Cattle are different. The Yak has a dense coat of fur with a super soft undercoat. Their coats are typically brown or black in color. On the other hand, Highland Cattle have thick coats of fur that appear long and shaggy. They are usually red but can also be white, cream, silver, and brindle.

Another difference between these animals is size. The Highland Cattle is larger than the Yak and can weigh between 1,300 and 2,000 pounds when fully grown. Yaks can weigh between about 600 and 1,400 pounds as adults. Both the Highland Cattle and the Yak have impressively large horns. Yaks have horns that look similar to handlebars. Highland Cattle have horns that point upward or outward.

At a Glance

Highland Cattle
  • Origin: Scottish Highlands
  • Size: Between 1,300 and 2,000 pounds
  • Lifespan: 15 to 22 years
  • Domesticated?: Yes
  • Origin: China, Tibet
  • Size: Between 600 and 1,4000 pounds
  • Lifespan: 20 to 25 years
  • Domesticated?: Yes

divider-multiprint Highland Cattle Overview

Highland Cattle
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay

This type of cattle is one of the oldest recognized in Scotland. They are large and heavy, but they are typically calm and docile animals. They spend most of their time grazing on grass and hay and are no strangers to traversing steep hills and rolling slopes. Highland Cattle can stand up to cold temperatures and harsh environments due to their thick coats and sturdy builds. These are among the longest-lived cattle in existence and are thought to be excellent reproducers.

Characteristics & Appearance

The Highland Cattle is bulky, stout, and adorable. The long fur that covers their heads makes them look like calves even when fully grown. They have fluffy ears, and their large eyes are partially covered by fringed fur. Their bodies look rounder than those of typical cows. They are usually light red in color, but they can be born with white, yellow, black, silver, or brindle fur.


The primary use for Highland Cattle is beef production. They are great foragers and need little protection during the cold winter months, making them an easy-to-care-for meat animal that doesn’t cost tons of money to raise. Their large size enables farmers to yield a large amount of meat at slaughter time.


Yak Overview

Image Credit: glorioushimalaya, Pixabay

The Yak is said to have been domesticated about 3,000 years ago in the mountains of Tibet. They are good-natured animals that like to spend their time grazing and traveling whenever possible. They make great pets because they get along well with kids and other animals and are easy to train. Yaks tend to live longer than Highland Cattle do, but only by a couple of years. They have learned to adapt to harsh climates, but they require protection from the hot sun and severe winds and rains, unlike Highland Cattle.

Characteristics & Appearance

These bulky animals have sturdy legs, thick bodies, and huge heads. They are more elongated than Highland Cattle, and their fur is almost always dark brown or black. Their fur hangs off their body like hair, making them look as if they are enveloped with a fringed blanket. Their ears are small and erect and their eyes large and round. Their horns grow sideways and forward instead of upward and outward like Highland Cattle horns do.


Yaks are used for meat production like Highland Cattle, but they have multiple other uses. Many people who raise Yak do so for their milk and fur. Others raise Yak for their fiber to sell to clothing producers. Well-trained Yaks can even work as draft animals and help transport heavy equipment and materials from one place to another.


Highlights of Differences Between Highland Cattle and Yak

The major difference is that they belong to different species. Here are a few other differences:

  • Colors: The Yak is almost always dark brown or black, but the Highland Cattle can be a variety of colors, including tan, white, silver, and brindle.
  • Sizes: The Highland Cattle is almost always taller and heavier than the Yak, although they do look similar in size to the naked eye.
  • Origins: While Highland Cattle comes from the Scottish Highlands, the Yak originates from Tibet and China.
  • Uses: Yaks have many uses, including meat production, fiber production, milk production, and draft work. Highland Cattle are typically raised for meat only.

Now that you understand the major differences between these two animals, you should have no problem distinguishing them apart from one another when you see them on a ranch or wandering in the wild.

divider-multiprint In Conclusion

The Yak and the Highland Cattle may look alike at first glance, but there are plenty of differences that can help you easily set them apart from one another. If you are looking to raise animals specifically for meat, Highland Cattle are a good choice. If you want to produce milk, fiber for things like blankets, and meat, the Yak is an awesome farm animal choice. Do you have a preference for either of these two animals? If so, which do you like the most and why?

Featured Image Credit: Top – glorioushimalaya, Pixabay | Bottom – FrankyFromGermany, Pixabay