The Scottish Highlands are famed as a mystical and romantic place of rugged mountains, moors, glens, ocean fjords, islands, barren rock, and steep valleys falling into icy streams or lochs. The weather can be harsh, with the landscape battered by cold, driving rain or snow. The small folds of Highland cattle have been part of this landscape for thousands of years.
At present, Highland cattle are most commonly colored red, tan or yellow, although they can be black, brindle, white, or silver-white. Brindle is described as a tawny or gray color with streaks or spots of a darker color. Many breeders enjoy keeping a multi colored heard. They believe that not selecting for a specific color keeps the genetic pool large and maintains vigor.
The hair coat of the Highland is distinctive. The long forelock can hang down over the eyes or even the nose, giving the animal a bemused expression. The
body hair is profuse, long, and slightly waved. A downy undercoat beneath the long outer hair can reach 13 inches in length. The undercoat provides warmth, and the slightly oily outercoat sheds wetness. When Highland cattle are raised in hotter, drier climates, they shed much of their coat in the summer.
The Highland has an appealing and picturesque head. Short but broad, the head is crowned by lovely horns. The long horns of bulls usually grow out level from the side of the head, inclining slightly forward and rising upward. Some breeders favor a downward curve. Highland cattle have an almost legendary hardiness and are excellent wintering cattle. They are a very long lived breed, with average cows raising 12 or more calves. Highland cattle are known for their intelligence and self-reliance. Some breeders feel this confidence boarders on indifference towards humans. The cows mothering instinct is highly developed, as birth is generally easy.
The Highland is well suited to the natural, lean or custom meat markets, and the value of this product can compensate the raiser despite the breeds slower growth weight and smaller size.