Highland Cattle FAQ

What colors do Highland Cattle come in?
There are many variations in coat color for Highland cattle. The colors below are recognized by the American Highland Cattle Association:

  • Red
  • Black
  • Brindle
  • Yellow
  • Dun (grayish or mouse-colored)
  • Silver (white hair with black skin underneath)
  • White (white hair with pink skin underneath)
For more information on coat colors, check out Bairnsley Highland Cattle's excellent coat color explanation.

Are Highlands purebred or are they a cross breed?
Highlands are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book being established in 1884. Their adaptability to severe changes in weather ensured their longevity.

Where do Highlands come from?
As the name indicates, Scottish Highland Cattle have lived for centuries in the rugged remote Scottish highlands. The extremely harsh conditions created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed.

Originally, there were two distinct classes: the slightly smaller and usually black Kyloe, whose primary domain was the islands off the west coast of northern Scotland and the larger animal, generally reddish in color, whose territory was the remote highlands of Scotland. Today, both of these strains are regarded as one breed - the Scottish Highland.

How come they all look like bulls?
It's the horns; both bulls and cows have them. In the photos below the bull is on the left and the cow is in the center. Do you notice the difference in the horns? A cow's horns normally grow outward and curve up above her head, the tips pointing skyward. A bull's horns normally curve outward and forward, along the sides his face, the tips not much higher than his head. You can usually tell how old a growing calf is by the length of his or her horns. Calves are born with little "nubs" that are no bigger than the tip of a finger. By age one, a heifer's horns are about 5 to 7 inches in length. An older cow can have a horn spread of three to four feet wide.

Are Highlands mean?
Despite long hair and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered an even-tempered animal - bulls as well as cows.

They can be halter trained as easily as any other breed, even more so because of their superior intelligence. As with any other animal there are good and bad temperaments. A lot has to do with the way they are raised and handled. A bad-tempered animal should be removed from a fold that interacts with people.

Highlands definitely have a "pecking" order. Each member of the fold will recognize and respect the herd boss. As a cattle owner, you must ensure that YOU are in charge. At no time should you allow your cattle to dominate humans. Your cattle will recognize and respect this fact. For the sake of safety, you must ensure that respect.

For the most docile manner, begin early. As soon as its mother allows, a young calf should be handled often - and gently. Make sure that every interaction with humans is a positive experience.

Why would someone want to raise Highland Cattle?
Highlands are exceptionally showy and few of them in your pasture will often stop traffic. Compared to other cattle there are several reasons. Highlands are a cut above the rest. They require little in the way of shelter, feed supplements, or expensive grains to achieve and maintain good condition and fitness. In fact, Highland cattle seem to enjoy conditions in which many other breeds would perish. Cold weather and snow have little effect on them.

Less than ideal pasture or range land is another reason to consider the Highland breed. It has been said that the Highland will eat what other cattle pass by, and get fat on it! The Highland is also an excellent browser, able to clear a lot of brush with speed and efficiency.

The Highland is a disease resistant breed, and they do not stress easily. Other bovine diseases affect the Highland less also, due to the genetic advantages they have achieved.

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