Highland Cattle, or "Heilan' Coos" as they are affectionately known in Scotland, are a native breed of hardy Scottish cattle.
Highland Cattle are a hardy native of Scotland. They have a long and distinguished ancestry, not only in their homeland of western Scotland, but also in many far-flung parts of the world such as America and Canada. They are a distinctive and well known breed, recognisable by their long, thick, flowing coat of brown or black hair and their large horns. The Highlander has remained largely unchanged over the centuries. Written records go back to the 18th century and the Highland Cattle Herd Book, first published in 1885, lists pedigrees since that time.
They are tough beasts, well suited to the Scottish climate as they can live outside during the long, harsh winter of the Scottish Highlands as nature has provided them with a weatherproof, shaggy coat and an extra thick hide. The breed also has a natural and unique ability to convert poor grazing efficiently into good quality beef. Highland Beef is healthy and nutritious with lower levels of fat and cholesterol and a higher protein and iron content than other beef. The very low fat and cholesterol levels are due to the fact that the thick shaggy coats and thick hide do the work that fat does in other cattle.
Highland Cattle are known as a female breed as their unique qualities are passed down through the progeny of the female line. People starting a new herd or fold as Highlanders are known, may collect some females that are not related and may have come from different breeders. Heifer calves which are born then need to be named and commonly they use the name of the dam thus preserving the female line.
If a female Highland is crossed with another breed of bull, for example shorthorn or continental breeds, the qualities of the female are passed on and the much desired "hybrid vigour" is also obtained in the progeny. The mothers are vey good milk producers and the excellent beef is produced in the progeny. Click here to view an old newsreel film from 1922 showing the Highland Cattle sales at the port of Oban in the West Highlands of Scotland. Click here to see a film with a variety of cattle including Highlands from 1930.
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