With their long horns and shaggy coats, Highland cattle are some of the most easily recognizable cows in the world. Highland cattle come from Scotland but have spread around the world. This hardy, long-living breed thrives in harsh climates and mountainous terrain, producing lean beef that is tender and flavorful.
History of Highland Cattle
Highland cattle have existed in Scotland for at least 200 years. Records of the breed have been found as far back as the 18th century. The Highland Cattle Herd Book was first published in 1885, detailing the breed’s characteristics and pedigrees.
From their traditional home in the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles of Scotland, Highland cattle have spread around the world. They were exported to North America in the early 20th century. Highland cattle are also now found in many European countries, as well as in Australia, New Zealand and South America. They have proved capable of coping with winters much colder than those in Scotland and are ideally suited to hilly regions.
Physical Characteristics of Highland Cattle
Highland cattle have large heads adorned with two huge horns. Both head and body are covered in long, wavy hair that can even hang over the animal’s eyes if allowed to grow unrestricted. The hair of these cattle can be red, yellow, black or tan. It can even be brindled, which means that it has a subtly striped pattern.
Highland Cattle and Cold Weather
The Scottish Highlands are regularly battered with strong winds and high levels of rainfall. The thick hair of Highland cattle protects them from this harsh weather. They are also capable of seeking out, eating and digesting plants that other breeds of cattle can’t eat. As a result, they can survive even in remote mountainous regions in winter.
Highland Cattle and Beef Production
Thanks to the insulating qualities of their hair, Highland cattle carry relatively little fat under their skin. As a result, they produce lean beef. Their meat sells at a premium price in specialty butchery outlets. Buyers are prepared to pay a high price for the tender succulence of this beef, which contains lower levels of fat and cholesterol than beef from other breeds.
Other Uses of Highland Cattle
Highland cattle live an exceptionally long time, with cows often continuing to breed until they are at least 18 years old. Highland cattle that are kept for milk production deliver a very rich milk that is high in butterfat. Thanks to their distinctive and majestic appearance, Highland cattle are also bred for show purposes, in which case their coats are groomed with oils to make them look fluffy and soft.
Highland Cattle Hybrid Breeds
Highland cattle are regularly crossed with other breeds to create a unique combination of desirable characteristics. For example, Highland cows are often crossed with Shorthorn bulls to produce hardy offspring that have a more mainstream carcass configuration than Highland cattle, producing meat with more mass market appeal. These hybrids also inherit the superior mothering abilities of the Highland cows and are often used as suckler cows. Crossing these cows again with Limousin or Charolais bulls produces high-quality beef cattle that are widely used in Scotland commercial beef farming.
More Information About Highland Cattle
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