Scottish Highland Cows: A Unique Cattle Breed

3 Mins read

Scottish Highland Cows: A Unique Cattle Breed

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Have you ever seen a Scottish Highlander cow? They’re so adorable! We are just now learning about these beef and dairy cows from Scotland as we have acquired three Scottish Highlanders of our own to raise, and are borrowing a bull for breeding.

Scottish Highland Cow grazing in a field.

If you’re currently researching dairy cows, here are eight things you need to know when keeping a family milk cow and signs to watch for with an expecting cow. Or, if you’d like to know more about raising grass feed beef, you can read more here.

Why I Love Scottish Highlanders

The look of these cows is one of the main reasons why I love them. They have long horns and beautifully colored shaggy long hair. We have our first new herd of Scottish Highlanders that are grazing at The Norris Farmstead.

Honestly, when I knew we were going to open an AirBnB, these furry cows were among my first thought. I don’t know about you, but if I had the chance to stay somewhere and look out the window at these adorable cows grazing in the field, I’d book that stay in a heartbeat.

Scottish Highland Cow grazing in a field.

Scottish Highland Cows

Scottish Highland cows are a very unique breed. For starters, they’re known to be exceptionally friendly and gentle cows. They originated in Scotland, and their horns can grow up to six feet.

They can thrive in various climates (especially cold climates), and, on average, they live longer than most other cattle, as their life span is between 15 to 20 years.

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Because our cows are new to us, even though they’re known for their gentle disposition, I still recommend keeping a good distance and being cautious until you know the temperament of each individual animal. As with any breed of animal, there are always outliers, so safety is always first.

Scottish Highland Cow and calf.

Good for Milk

I see the question often asked if you can drink Scottish Highlander milk. Absolutely! They have wonderful milk that’s rich in butterfat, protein, and calcium.

Their milk will make incredible butter, yogurt, cheese, etc.

As with any dairy cow, you’ll need to breed them and get into a routine of breeding and milking, just as with any dairy cow.


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Scottish Highlanders breed at two years, not one and a half, as most other cattle do.

But honestly, have you ever seen a photo of a Scottish Highlander calf? They look like teddy bears! (See the stock image above for cuteness!)

Scottish Highland Cow grazing in a field.

Good for Beef

Scottish Highlanders are known to have pretty lean beef. The meat has a marbling to it, like Wagyu beef, not Angus, because of the inner and outer layers of fur.

They will take a bit longer to get up to full butcher weight, so that’s something to consider if you’re wanting to raise them for beef cattle (more on this below).

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Great Foragers

So let’s talk about what good foragers they are, what they eat, and facts about their growth.

Unlike other cattle, these cows are exceptional and much heartier foragers. They will eat blackberry vines, poison ivy, and honeysuckle vines. If they can reach it, they will eat it.

They’re great for restoring pastures or wooded areas as well. They’ll clean up entire woods that other cattle may not even survive in.

If you have a field or wooded area that needs to be cleared, you could clear acreage while raising food for your table. Talk about a win-win!

Scottish Highland Cow grazing in a field.

Growth Facts

It’s important to note that Scottish Highland cows do take longer to grow and get to butcher weight than most beef cows, and they will provide less overall meat than other breeds.

In fact, Scottish Highlanders take an extra year to mature compared to other cattle, so they are ready to butcher in about three years, instead of the average two for other breeds.

Scottish Highland Cow grazing in a field.

What do They Eat?

The beauty of this breed is that they can eat a variety of feed. As mentioned above, they’re great foragers. But they also eat grass, hay, straw or cereal grains, barley and wheat, and even turnips and peas.

They eat less food on a daily basis than other cattle. But since they take an extra year to mature, your feed costs are still about the same.

Take a Leap of Faith

Sometimes new projects require you to take a leap of faith. You don’t always need to know everything at the onset of a new project, but having an idea of what to expect is wise.

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And so we have taken this leap of faith with our three new Scottish Highland cows! I’m excited to continue to share our journey as we discover more about this unique breed.

If you want to discover new homesteading skills, you might want to take a leap of faith yourself and join us at the Modern Homesteading Conference this summer (2023) in North Idaho.




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