HISTORY OF SCOTTISH HIGHLAND CATTLE
short story: hardy animals, living the good life
Highland Cattle Origins
Highland cattle are one of the oldest breeds in the world, originating from Scotland as far back as the 6th century. The extremely harsh conditions of the rugged, remote Scottish Highlands created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed. Scottish Highland cattle were officially introduced to the United States in the late 1890's when cattlemen realized the need for a more hardy animal within their herds.
Original Highlander Classes
Originally there were two distinct classes. The Kyloe, whose primary domain was the islands off the west coast of northern Scotland, were named after the narrow straits of water they were herded across to get to market - kyles. Kyloe tended to be smaller, have black coats and longer hair due to the harsh, rugged conditions of the islands. The other type was generally reddish in color, whose territory was on the mainland Highlands. These mainland cattle were larger due to more ample pastures with nutrient rich grasses. Today, due to crossbreeding, both of these strains are regarded as one breed – Highland. In addition to red and black, yellow, dun, white, brindle and silver are also traditional colors.
Modern Highlander Cattle Characteristics
The breed is characterized by traits of hardiness, self-sufficiency and longevity. Excellent foragers and efficient, they help to improve pastures and clearing woodlots. A testament of this ability was in an Oak Savanna Restoration Project in Wisconsin where the cattle and environment thrived. Their moderate frame is ideal for small and large farms alike in various climates and regions of the country. Highland Cattle are found in all fifty states and acclimate well to the environment yet it is best to buy cattle from a climate similar to our farm. The double hair coat is a tremendous asset in adverse weather and is believed to be the reason why they have limited external fat cover. This means less to trim from carcasses and more value retained. The horns not only give them their majestic looks but are helpful with predator control. These cattle have strong maternal instincts and protect their young.