Scottish Highland Cattle with their magnificent horns, long wavy coats, and gorgeous fringes attract attention like no other cattle. An ancient breed surviving for centuries in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, they create a great deal of curiosity and a multitude of questions.
A list of common questions about Scottish Highland Cattle which covers many topics, along with links to further information.
One of the biggest myths about Highland Cattle is that they cannot cope with the heat here in Australia! But the answer is ... Yes they Can!
Another myth is that Highland Cattle require to be crossed with other breeds, or graded-up, in order for them to adapt to Australian conditions ... again, completley misleading and quite unnecessary.
Highland Cattle grow their coats in autumn ready for winter and cast them off again in the spring. The coat length is directly related to the temperature experienced within any region. So, the warmer it is, the less hair they will grow.
As a rule of thumb they can cope with the heat anywhere that other British breeds can, so if there are Angus or Herefords in the area then Highlands will also be OK. Like all cattle they appreciate shade in the hotter months.
Today's figures would be typically …
So, Highland Cattle are smaller than Angus cattle and similar in size to Jersey Cows and Bulls.
However, many people are surprised to hear that Highland Cattle at the end of the 1800's were larger in comparison with today's average.
In 1893 the official average weights for Highland Cattle were given as ...
See our article Size — Does it matter?
People often say ... "They need a haircut" and we are often asked about shearing them! But this is quite unnecessary.
They cleverly grow their winter coats when the temperatures fall and cast them off again in the spring.
Brushing is not necessary for cattle in the paddock. Their coats are self managing due to the fact they cast off their hair in the Spring and grow a new coat in the Autumn.
Young calves sometimes get a matted coat, but again as they cast off their calf coat the matted parts drop off.
Show cattle are brushed and groomed for the show ring. Also some owners who have spent time getting their animals really quiet find that the cattle really do like to be brushed. However, to get them to that stage takes time and patience.
The hair is quite coarse but has been used by some to spin yarn for craftwork.
Hides from these magnificent animals can be tanned and sold making them more profitable than many other breeds of cattle. They make luxurious rugs with hair about 100-150mm (4"-6") long and can be found in colours from white through yellow to reds and on to black. For cattle that are grown for beef it is best to time their slaughter in the winter months to allow for collection of the hide with the greatest amount of hair.
The fringe is known as a Dossan and it can get very thick in the colder months.
Remarkably this does not seem to impede their vision and they know exactly what is going on around them ... some say they have a sixth sense!
Their inquisitive nature and steady disposition make them a delight to handle. Temperament is everything and the general tendency is towards docility.
Time and patience are the keys to ensuring that you get the best experience with your cattle.
Temperament is everything and the general tendency is towards docility. There is no doubt that they have their "pecking order" within the herd. Occasionally this can lead to bullying within the animals themselves when yarded.
Therefore, commonsense dictates that cattle with large horns should be yarded in smaller numbers that allow for plenty of space for both the animals and the handlers. By following this regime we have never had a situation where an animal has shown aggression towards us.
We raised four children on our farm and you will see by our photo galleries that they had a lot of interaction with the cattle. When the children were small we witnessed a number of occasions when the cattle intentionally lifted their horns out of the way to avoid contact.
Our article Monarch of the But 'n Ben has a quote from a Scottish breeder which says it all ...
Sandy Mathers, who keeps 30 Highland cattle at his Lethenty Fold at Millview, Lethenty, Inverurie, bears this out: "You have to know each beast individually," he said. "Most of them are very quiet and gentle. They are quite happy for me to pass closely in amongst them and they will come to me and eat out of a bucket. When I am working with them in the byre they hold their horns away from me so as not to hit me with them".
A note of caution though, which applies to all breeds of cattle! Cattle are large animals, many times heavier than us and its important to always be aware of that, ... especially in tight spaces.
It is also worth noting ... Around calving time cows that are normally quiet can become very protective of their new offspring and may require some time to themselves.
Prices vary considerably depending on the demand at the time, as well as possibly your location. Cattle with a unique pedigree, or those that have done well in the show ring, may attract premium prices.
Whether you want something pretty to look at, or whether you are looking for sound breeding stock as the foundation for your herd, we at Cruachan Highland Cattle are sure to have something to suit your needs, and at a competitive price.
Visit our Cattle Sales page to check what we may have available.
Highland Cattle are an old breed known to have grazed the rugged Scottish landscape since the sixth century. It is still a matter of debate as to whether they were an origin of Scotland or imported from Scandinavia perhaps with the Vikings when they invaded Great Britain.
For the full story, see our article on The History of Highland Cattle
Scientific tests carried out on Guaranteed Pure Highland Beef by the Scottish Agricultural College - the National College for Food, Land and Environmental Studies demonstrate convincing evidence that GPHB is significantly lower in Fat and Cholesterol, and higher in Protein and Iron than other beef.
A further study titled "The Health and Tenderness of Highland Beef", by Charles J. Bruce, showed that "there are preferential characteristics within the Highland beef when compared to the commercial samples, with the iron, protein and tenderness all proving to be statistically better than the commercial samples. — This is a highly saleable marketing point within beef ..."
See our article on Guaranteed Pure Highland Beef for more information.
Highland Cattle are a beef breed and are grown primarily for their meat. Highland Cattle beef is increasingly being recognized in Australia for it's marbling attributes. Marbling is closely associated with the key meat qualities of tenderness, juiciness and flavour.
They are a breed that is slow to mature and therefore not popular with commercial cattle producers.
However, they have many attributes that make them ideal for the small property. See our article on the 8 great advantages of breeding Highland Cattle
The answer is yes. While Highland Cattle do not produce the same quantities of milk as a dairy cow they do produce enough to feed their calf as well as provide enough milk for an average household. The milk is said to be very rich, with a high butterfat content of around 8-10%.
From very early times Highland Cattle have been a central part of the Crofter farms, providing milk, meat and hair. Their horns were used for centuries as drinking vessels and there are surviving pictures, carved on stone, of Celtic tribesmen drinking from them. Their hides had a multitude of uses including covering the oak base of targes, which were secured with brass studs. They were also used for thongs, door flaps, shoes, purses, sporrans, belts, boats, bellows and saddles.
It is not uncommon for Highland Cattle to breed to ages in excess of 18. This is substantially greater than many other breeds and can reduce replacement costs by up to 25%.
We have had numerous cows that have lived for 20 - 22 years and one at nearly 24 years old.
All Scottish Highland Cattle, both male and female, have horns.
Here in Australia there are long haired cattle without horns that have been bred to polled bulls (graded-up from another breed) to produce crossbred animals with long hair and without horns ... but these are NOT Scottish Highland Cattle.
One of the most noteworthy features in a Highlander, is of course, the magnificent horns.
In the bulls, the horns should be strong, and come level out of the head, slightly inclining forwards, and also slightly rising towards the points.
With regards to the horns of the cow, there prevail two opinions. As a rule, they come squarer out from the head than in the male, rise sooner, and are somewhat longer, though they preserve their substance and a rich reddish appearance to the very tips.
The other taste is that for a female, the horns which come more level from the head, with a peculiar back set curve, and a very wide sweep. A number of breeders seem to prefer, by comparison, the latter, which gives possibly the more graceful appearance.
In all cases, however, the horns of a Highlander, when well set, gives the animal a stamp of nobility which causes it to attract the attention of any stranger who might pass heedlessly by animals of other breeds as merely cows, bulls or oxen.
Another myth that is often heard is that Highland Cattle require special handling facilities due to their large horns ... NOT true!
We have been breeding Highland Cattle for over 35 years and our facilities are a standard width cattle race along with a standard crush and vet section with a walk through bail head.
Highland Cattle will turn their heads to manipulate their head and horns through any space that their body will fit.
There is one proviso and that is that the cattle must be accustomed to going through the yards from a young age. When they are young their horns are small which allows them to traverse the cattle race and crush like any other breed.
As the horns continue to grow they need to go through the yards at least once or twice a year so that they learn to manoeuvre their head and horns. This ensures trouble free handling for years to come.
Highland Cattle have a genuine ease of calving.
Other than a few breech births, we have not had to assist at a birth since we started with Highland Cattle in 1987. In years gone by Highland Cattle were mainly left to fend for themselves … they either calved successfully or died in the process. This created a natural culling process which we benefit from today.
It should be stressed that ease of calving does not mean the animals should be just left to fend for themselves. The expectation is for proper animal husbandry, and that all cattle require to be inspected regularly during the calving season in order to check for possible issues such as breech birth.
There are 7 official colours. Red, Black, Yellow, White, Brindle, Dun, and Silver Dun.
You can read more about colour here ... Highland Cattle Coat Colour
This is a question that is often asked.
The best answer is to talk to your local Department of Agriculture about the stocking rates in your area. You can also ask a local farmer in the area.
The ability of Highland Cattle to forage, along with slower maturity means that they can hold their condition in poor conditions for longer than many other breeds of cattle (however, it needs to be said that like any other animal, they cannot survive on fresh air alone).
Stocking rate must be managed properly in the case of poor conditions if cattle condition is to be maintained.
Be sure to visit our Main Page for lots more information
or visit our SALES page if you wish to purchase cattle.
For Cattle Sales contact us by email ...
All pages and photos contained in this website are Copyright of Cruachan Highland Cattle or the stated information source.
Cruachan Highland Cattle
PO Box 228, Maffra, Victoria 3860, Australia