Everything You Need to Know About the Highland Cow

Posted by Allie Layos
Scottich Highland Cow and Calf looking at the camera

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The ancient Highland cow is the perfect combination of adorable and low maintenance.

The Highland is an ancient breed of cattle that originated in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland. First mentioned in the 6th century A.D., the breed is known for its long, thick hair and its hardiness.

Highlands are a medium-sized cattle breed and come in a variety of colors. At shows, they are often groomed with oils and conditioners that make their coats look fluffy, and are sometimes called “fluffy cows.” These thick coats make them well-suited to colder temperatures, but less tolerant to excessive heat.

Though not often used as dairy animals, their milk tends to have a very high butterfat content.

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General Appearance

Highlands are easily recognized by their long horns and long, wavy coats. A medium-sized breed, cows can weigh up to 1,100 pounds and bulls up to 1,800.

 

Body

The back of the Highland is rounded and the legs short and straight. The quarters must be wider than the hips and the neck should make a straight line to the body. Highlands do not have a dewlap.

Coat

Highlands are known best for their coats. The hair is straight and waved, and can come in many colors such as black, brindle, red, yellow, white, silver, or dun. Silver coats look white but the cow will usually have a black nose.

Head

Highlands have heads that are proportionate to their body and wide between the eyes. The breed standard requires that they naturally have horns, but these may be trimmed in commercial rearing.

Temperament

While Highlands are often described as gentle, intelligent and good-natured, you will also hear stories of Highlands being skittish and unpredictable. The temperament of your Highland generally comes down to two things -- good breeding and good handling.

Highlands have strong mothering instincts, and cows with calves are generally the worst offenders when it comes to aggression. But if you choose a well-bred Highland and handle it with care, Highlands can make excellent pets.

Health

Highlands are known to be a hardy and generally healthy breed. Though they can fall prey to any of the normal cattle diseases, eye problems are rare as they have an extra long forelock to protect their eyes.

Owners should pay special attention to nursing cows, as a vigorously suckling calf can sometimes get hair caught around its mother's teat, and, if left unattended, the teat can strangulate and drop off, causing an infection.

Body image: Trek Earth

Have you seen a Highland cow? Tell us in the comments below!

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Everything You Need to Know About the Highland Cow