Did You Know? Incredible Highland Cattle Facts

Highland Cattle facts about the oldest registered cattle in the world.

Highland Cattle are the oldest registered cattle with Herdbook (Cattle registry) from 1885 with two distinct varieties of cattle natively found in high elevations of Scottish highlands; initially, these cattle were bought to Britain by Neolithic farmers in the second millennium BC. One variant is Klyoes or West Highland, the smaller and primarily black highlands originating and living in the outer Hebrides in harsher weather conditions. The other is Mainland, which is larger and mainly in red or dun colors, living in Scotland. These two are now crossbred as a single breed and started exporting to other countries, especially to Australia and North America. This cattle rearing has a significant impact on the economy of those countries. This docile and easy to handle shaggy animal is known for its beef and high butter content milk. Highland beef is a lump of tender meat with low fat and cholesterol content, making it more renowned. Highlands survive in cold climatic regions because of their body structure.

Continue reading our article on Scottish Highland Cattle to learn more exciting facts. You may also like our collection of facts on the zebu and domestic pig.

Highland Cattle

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Grass, leaves, flowers, and plants

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

Male: 1,800 lb (800 kg) Female: 1,100 lb (500 kg)

How long are they?


How tall are they?

Male: 3.5-4 ft (106-120 cm)

Female: 3-3.5 ft (90-106 cm)

What do they look like?

Red, orange, ginger, black, dun, yellow, white, gray, silver, and tan

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Wolves, cougars, bobcats, coyotes, and humans

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Steep and wet grasslands


Scotland, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, and United States





Scientific Name

Bos taurus





Highland Cattle Interesting Facts

What type of animal are Highland Cattle?

Highland Cattle are friendly countryside cattle that mainly belong to Scotland. It is a hardy breed with long horns and a shaggy coat that can withstand high winds, heavy rainfall, and cold climatic conditions. Highlands are herbivores that depend entirely on plants, grass, and flowers for their survival. These are social animals that move in groups with the same breed and other animals without aggressive behavior.

What class of animal do Highland Cattle belong to?

The Highland is a Scottish breed of cattle that originated in Scottish highlands and belongs to the Mammalia class and family Bovidae.

How many Highland Cattle are there in the world?

These cattle are widely reared in Scotland, Canada, the USA, Finland, and Denmark. As per records, the estimated number of these cattle in the UK is 15,000, whereas, in the USA and Canada, it is 11,000. The Highland Cattle Club of Finland declared that they have 13,000 cattle of this breed, and there might be many more cattle that are unregistered.

Where do Highland Cattle live?

Highland Cattle originated in the Scottish Islands and outer Hebrides island of Scotland. Later they moved to other parts of Europe. Owing to their primary usage, i.e. high-quality meat, these cattle are exported to other countries like Australia, North America, Canada, Denmark, Finland.

What is the Highland Cattle's habitat?

These cattle live where they have large grazing areas, farms, mountains and can survive in cold climatic conditions and at regions where they have high annual rainfall because of their long shaggy hair. As the name defines itself, they mainly live in elevated grassland. They can dig deep in snow with their horns to eat buried plants.

Who do Highland Cattle live with?

Highlands loves to interact with humans and seek attention. Humans have been rearing these cattle for many years because of their high usage. Highland Cattle are friendly animals, despite their colossal body and horns. They can move in large groups for grazing without any aggression because of their hierarchy of dominance in their breed. This hierarchy mainly depends on their sex and age, with older dominant to young, and male dominant to female. Younger bulls are dominant to highland cows when they reach two years.

How long do Highland Cattle live?

Highland Cattle have a long life span of around 20 years. They can easily sustain cold winters with their double coat of hair, and they guard themselves against predators using their horns. As they always move in a group, predators cannot attack them quickly.

How do they reproduce?

The young female Highland cow, commonly known as a heifer, will have her first calf at two to three years by natural means or artificial insemination. A Highland cow will carry the calf for approximately 9-10 months in its womb, just like humans. So Highland cows can produce a single calf in a year. As they have a lifespan of 20 years, each Highland cow can have at least 15-18 calves in its life. The young calf stays close to its mother, forming a close bond. The Highland cow offers milk to the young and is very good at protecting their calves from predators. The young calves will take more than a year to be independent.

What is their conservation status?

Highland Cattle are domesticated breeds and are raised for human usage; their population numbers are not in danger until people rely on them. These cattle are widely available and are not endangered. Hence this breed is listed under the Least Concern category.

Highland Cattle Fun Facts

What do Highland Cattle look like?

Highland Cattle are distinctive from all other breeds of cattle because of their long double coat of hair and long horns. This hair consists of an oily outer coat and a downy inner coat. The long fringed hair covering their eyes is called dossan. Highlands have varied hair colors from red, orange, black, yellow, gray, and silver. This cattle's legs are short and straight, and quarters must be more expansive than its hip. Highland bull can grow up to 4 ft in height, and it has horizontal horns with slightly bend tips, whereas a Highland cow will grow up to 3.5 ft in height and have mostly sweeping curved horns, farmers will trim these horns in commercial rearing. The Highlands commonly shed their hair when exposed to a hot climate and regain their hair when the climate becomes brisk, and this shedding increases with the cattle's age.

Highland Cattle are a docile and friendly animal.

How cute are they?

Highland Cattle are the fluffiest breed of cattle in the world. These cattle's babies look even more adorable and charming with their long hair.

How do they communicate?

Highland Cattle have long hair all over the body, which covers their eyes too, but they have a high sense of vision. They mainly depend on their vision, touch, smell, sense of hearing, mooing, and grunts to bond with their group, find food, and identify threats. Moving their heads, playfighting, licking, and mounting on each other are considered as friendly contact.

How big are Highland Cattle?

Highland Cattle are friendly mammals that originated from Scotland. A bull can grow up to 4 ft, whereas a Highland cow can grow up to 3.5 ft.

How fast can Highland Cattle move?

The maximum speed of this Scottish Highland Cattle is 25 kmph. Highlands can easily reach elevated regions for grazing despite their body weight by using their horns to clear any obstacles in their path.

How much do Highland Cattle weigh?

Highland Cattle are massive mammals. Male Highland cattle weigh nearly 1,800 lb (800 kg ), whereas Highland cows weigh 1,100 lb (500 kg); this is almost equal to a small car's weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male Highland cattle are generally known as bulls, and female Highland cattle with at least a single calf are known as Highland cow, whereas a female Highland Cattle who is not old enough to have calves is called a heifer. The shape of their horns can distinguish males and females.

What would you call baby Highland Cattle?

The Highland Cattle is a giant mammal, and scientifically it is called Bos taurus. Generally, Highland Cattle babies are called calves. The male baby is commonly referred to as a young bull. The young female cow, however,  is called a heifer till she attains breeding age when she is two or three years old. Highland cows highly protect highland calves until they attain the right age.

What do they eat?

Highland Cattle are herbivore animals. They graze grass, leaves, flowers, and plants for their survival, and they can even dig deep through the snow to eat buried plants. These cattle can eat plants that other cattle prefer to pass by and annoy pest plants. They are capable of eating up to 40 lb of vegetation a day. Highlands have a four-chambered stomach that allows them to digest tough plants, which is difficult for other animals. The stomach's first chamber, called the rumen, can hold a vast amount of food, more than 25 gallons in some cattle. This rumen consists of some healthy beneficial bacteria that help digest the food. Once the food is processed by rumen, some part of food is recalled as cud into its mouth, then it starts chewing and swallows it, repeating this process many times to break down the food completely.

Are they dangerous?

Despite their look with long horns, hair, and double coat structure, Highland Cattle are very gentle in nature and human-friendly. They can move in groups of the same breed without showing any aggressive behavior as they have a hierarchy based on other members' dominance. Age and gender play a prominent role in the establishment of hierarchy. But be careful with Highland cows as they are more protective of their calves and so they may attack to protect their young ones.

Would they make a good pet?

The Highland Cattle breed is the oldest breed of cattle in the world. They generally enjoy humans' company, and there are pieces of evidence of this breed rearing from thousands of years as house cows. Highlands are easy to handle, and their maintenance is also low as they can graze on non-agricultural lands and plants, which are generally not preferred by other cattle. Thanks to their friendly nature and long life span, they can make good family pets.

Did you know...

Highland Cattle are also known as Scottish Highland Cattle, North Highland Cattle, and West Highland Cattle. So, here are some interesting Scottish Highland Cattle facts that you will love!

Queen Victoria has a herd of cattle in Buckingham Palace, and it is rumored to be the only kind of meat she will eat.

We have a distinct breed of Highland Cattle called Miniature Highland Cattle. They are less abundant. These Highland Cattle require less grazing and produce less milk and meat when compared to normal Highland Cattle.

A general group of cattle is called a herd, but a group of Highland Cattle is called a fold. These Highlands are kept in open shelters made of stone called folds to protect them from cold weather in winters.

It is always tricky for predators to attack these cattle as they have high defensive skills when they move in groups. So its predators like wolves, cougars, bobcats, and coyotes would pick on old, young, wounded, and lone cattle that roam away from its group.

Keeping Highland Cattle

The Highland Cattle price varies depending on their age and grade, but generally, it would be approximately $600-$800, and these are abundantly available in their native Scotland to purchase. They require average shelter, and food supplements to maintain their health. Highland Cattle can tolerate high winds, cold weather, heavy rainfall, and snow that other cattle breeds cannot survive. Highland Cattle will eat what other cattle prefer to pass because of their high digestive power. As they are human-friendly and easy to maintain, there is recorded evidence of rearing these cattle from the second millennium BC with the first herd booked from 1885.

Uses of Highland Cattle

Highland Cattle are reared primarily for human usage. They can produce high-quality beef by having vegetation on lands that are not useful for agriculture, making a reasonable profit. This tender beef is also gaining popularity for its lower fat and cholesterol content and can also be used as house cows to source high butterfat content milk. They can help clear your backyards from annoying pest plants in your surroundings. The Highlands' hair is used for spinning in the production of garments too.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including Przewalski's horse, or fennec fox.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Highland cattle coloring pages.



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