Scottish cattle breeds (recklessly called highland cows, Scottish cattle, Scottish highland cattle, West highland cattle, Long Haired highland cattle, and Long-haired Scottish cattle) are known for their attractive thick shaggy hair and leaner beef. They got this name because of their country of origin, Scotland.
They have smaller teats and they can not produce as much milk as production milk cows can. Their milk production, high in butterfat, is around two gallons. All the breeds are slightly different and the difference in their height and their size is due to the severe climate conditions and limited rations.
The other difference you may find interesting is, the group of highland cattle is not called herd it is rather referred to as folds.
Let’s discuss the breeds of Scottish cattle in detail. But first, have a look at their common breeds.
- Belted Galloway
- Red Angus
- Aberdeen Angus or Black Angus
- Whitebred shorthorn
1. Belted Galloway
Belted Galloway, a traditional Scottish breed, is a low maintenance cattle, indigenous to the Galloway region of South Western Scotland. It was recognized as a separate breed back in 1921 but their exact origin is still not discovered yet.
The prominent white belt makes them different from the just “Galloway Cattle”. The appearance of a white belt is considered an outcome of cross-breeding. They are super fertile and are less likely to face any complications during their pregnancy and at the time of delivery. Having two calves at the same time is not rare for this particular breed and they can give birth every year.
The beef driven from the belted galloway cattle is not just full of flavor but is also low in saturated fat.
They are recorded in the books of history as ” Belted Galloway Cattle” but they are popular among their keepers as “Belties” and “Oreo” as their color pattern looks a little like Oreo cookies.
Belted Galloway cattle are mostly found in black colors. The shade of black can get darker or duller but it will still be black enough to be called black.
Like all other Scottish breeds, these cattle are kept for meat mainly. These dual-purpose cattle can also be kept to fulfill the milk requirement but the well-marbled, leaner, and flavorful meat is the reason they are most preferred for.
They are pretty much similar to the other Scottish breeds but the appearance of the white belt makes them stand out even in the bright daylight.
Belties as an Ornament
It might surprise you but belties are also kept as an ornament. You may wonder why? Well, because of their unusual appearance. Do farmers take pride in keeping them as they are frequently asked where did they get this alien from?
Bulls: 850 kg to 1000 kg.
Cows: up to 675 kg.
Apart from the provided information, they are said to be well mannered and easier to keep as they are naturally adapted to living on poor cattle feed.
Here we are presenting another world’s oldest Scottish breed known as the “Galloway cattle”.
These cattle are native to Scotland but their distribution to the other parts of the world makes them readily available in other countries as well mainly Canada, Australia, and the US. Like most of the Scottish cattle, their thick hairy coat makes the livestock farmers go crazy.
They are among the few Scottish cattle that are more frequently mentioned in detail in the books of history. The originally had horns but the intentional crossbreeding brought forward this new polled generation and livestock keepers are happy with that.
Galloway cattle are docile so they know how to protect their calves and herd in the time of danger. Like the belted galloway cattle their pregnancy remains complication-free and they start nursing their calves right away.
All Scottish cattle are kept for meat so they are not different. But the evidence of them being used as cheese producing machines is also found in Cumberland.
Fortunately or unfortunately they are hornless. They instead have a bone knob at the top of their skull which is called ” Poll”. But being hornless does not make them any less attractive as they have large eyes, very well defined square nose, and a broad face.
Their color looks more like black but some countries recognize it as a black-red blend. But their color looks more black than red.
Unfortunately, they are not adored enough to have a nickname so they are only referred to their original boring name.
Bulls: 771kg to 1043 kg.
Cows: 453 kg to 680 kg.
17 to 20 years.
The rustic Scottish breed is originally called the highland cattle. Like all other cattle in this list, they are also native to Scotland but their popularity made the US their second home. The frequent cross-breeding took and distributed their best features to the other breeds as well so they are now just the regular Scottish highland cattle. Their feeding cost is unbelievably low, they can even eat poison ivy and honeysuckle vine that have no value to humans.
They are among the few Scottish cattle that have a variety of colors. The common coat colors are dun, grey, white, yellow, ginger, red, and brindled. And some highland cattle are also a mixture of white and black their ears are black but the rest of their body is in white color.
Milk production is the least reason they are kept for. They, like their cousins, are beef factories for more livestock farmers.
The long pointed horns are their distinguishing feature but rounded back, short and straight legs make Scottish cattle different from the other cattle in the world.
They have several names but the common ones are:
- Long-haired highland cattle
- Scottish north highland cattle
- North highland cattle
Bulls: up to 800 kg.
Cows: up to 500 kg.
20 years( higher than most of Scottish cattle breeds)
Another Scottish ornament is the Luing beef breed. Ralph, Shane, and Denis kept the foundation of this Scottish breed. This breed is an outcome of crossbreeding highland heifers and shorthorn bulls. They got recognized as another breed in 1965 and their distribution to other countries started immediately. Besides, Scotland they are now also common in Canada and New Zealand.
They are only found in red and dun color and these colors suit them well.
They are also famous for what Scottish cattle are popular for, well-marbled meat.
Luing is the only name they have got so far.
Bulls: up to 950 kg.
Cows: up to 500 kg.
Another Scottish breed “Ayrshire” is famous for its exceptional foraging ability. As it’s name suggests this supernatural breed originated in Ayrshire, Scotland. Because of exceptional characteristics, this breed is considered a successful experiment.
Ayrshire is discussed for its spectacular horns, spotted coat, and efficient milk production. They are easier to raise as they do not face any difficulty in getting used to the new environment. This adaptability made the Ayrshire cattle livestock keeper’s favorite not only in Scotland but in other European countries as well.
Listing what makes them different from other Scottish cattle is hard as they are the most superior breed of them all. They are adored for their hardiness, longevity, and easy calving.
The physical appearance is also hugely different. Their coats are spotted usually with brown color and they are less hairy than all.
Reddish and white, yes, they are born with these two contrasting colors. The reddish spots on their back are more in an orangy tone than red but they are said to be red.
In fact, the all-purpose Scottish cattle are kept for all dairy purposes meat, and milk.
No other names except Ayrshire cattle.
Bulls: 640kg to 900 kg.
Cows: 450kg to 600kg.
6. Red Angus
To distinguish it from the Angus Scottish cattle the natives started calling this breed ” Red Angus”. This successful experience of crossbreeding is known for improved carcass quality and exceptionally well-milking ability.
A Scottish man called Eric L.C is considered a breeder of Red Angus. The plus point of having these cattle is they reach the age of puberty sooner than the other cattle and are considered the most fertile Scottish cattle. They are gentle and friendly towards humans.
They may be medium-sized as their cousins but their pigmented less hairy coat and polled head make their appearance a little less dramatic than other Scottish breeds. Exceptionally well maternal trait is also a plus point livestock keepers go for.
There are two types of Angus cattle and as this breed’s name suggests it’s color is reddish-brown.
No other names.
Bulls: up to 850kg.
Cows: up to 550kg.
About 20 years.
Shetland Scottish cattle belong to the Shetland Islands in Scotland. This breed is generally smaller than the other Scottish cattle breeds as the female and male weigh about 350 to 550 kg.
The domestication started in 3600 BC as they were considered the most difficult cattle breed to handle.
They are low maintenance cattle like other Scottish cattle breeds and their feeding cost is also surprisingly minimal.
They are relatively smaller than the other breeds and their milk contains more minerals and fatty acids than the other breeds.
Usually in black and white color but rarely in red, dun, and grey color.
They are raised and kept for all dairy purposes.
This breed is called and recognized by this name only. Cattle in this breed do not even have nicknames.
Bulls: up to 550kg.
Cows:up to 350kg.
17 to 18 years.
To discriminate it from the Red Angus it is either just called “the Angus cattle” or “Aberdeen Angus”. This breed is considered the mother of Red Angus cattle as the crossbreeding surprisingly brought the Red Angus in the spotlight even though black is a dominant color.
These cattle go easy on Scottish winter and storms as they are super hardy. They are mentioned as a separate breed in the books of history but the Red Angus is still struggling to get them recognized as a breed in some countries. These cattle are popular in few parts of Japan because of their superior marbling qualities.
The difference lies in the color only otherwise it would be more justified to say Red Angus their twin or a sibling. The classic black color made them popular as a different breed.
They are mainly raised for meat.
As it’s name suggests, The dominating Black color.
Aberdeen Angus and Black Angus are the only names this breed has got so far. Although, few livestock keepers like to call them “doodies” or “hummlies” but these names are only popular among the livestock farmers of Scotland.
Bulls: up to 850kg.
Cows: up to 550kg.
Up to 20 years.
You probably have never heard about this breed as it is the least known Scottish cattle breed in the world. There is a remote possibility that you know them by the oldest name, Durham. They are so badly neglected even history showed silence on this breed several times.
It is a registered breed but the record is still yet to be discovered, If it is known somewhere, it is known somewhere. It is known for the ability to live on homegrown forages. Shorthorn’s milk is an excellent protein intake as it is up to 3.5 percent of total nutrients. This breed is high in demand in many countries including Argentina, Canada, South Africa, the United States of America, the Republic of Ireland, Urguacy, New Zealand, and Zimbabwe, etc.
It was formerly kept as the all-purpose dairy cattle but as the world neglected and started rackless cross breeding their use is now somewhat limited to the meat production only.
Usually in red, and black colors. But in a few cattle, a combination of two colors is also seen.
Bulls: 800kg to 900kg.
Cows: up to 700kg.
17 to 18 years.
10. Whitebred Shorthorn
This all-white breed is recorded in the books of history as “whitebread shorthorn” and a livestock keeper Mr. David Hall is the founder of this rare all-purpose breed. The accuracy of the record is still in doubt as it is not considered a true breed. They are hardy so they can live on hill pasture and grazing rank grass alone.
This breed is known for several reasons that are:
- Medium size
- Wide muzzle
- Straight top line
- Firm fleshing
- Compact udders with medium-sized teats
and for their excellent milking qualities. They do not just produce a remarkable quantity of milk but also they keep on producing milk for a much longer time than any other Scottish cattle breed.
Blue-ish white or white.
They are raised for both milk and meat. As they are a treasure of both.
They are reliable milkers, this is their distinguishing trait. As the other Scottish breeds are lesser-known for their milking ability.
Bulls: 800kg to 900kg.
Cows: 550kg to 600kg.
Up to 20 years.
Recorded statistics showed they are Easy calving, hardy, gentle, and manageable. And this breed is regularly used for breeding purposes.
What you need to know about Scottish Cattle in general
History of Scottish cattle
Their history goes back to the 6th century. And we are in short for the record probably because a lot of time has passed or it was not being recorded the way it should have been. But the record shows the history of highland cows as follows
Like their name suggests they belong to the west coast islands of Scotland. And they are considered the oldest ever breed to be registered, probably due to the fact that the herd book predates all others.
Their breeding history is considered understandable. The “now highland cattle” are an outcome of two ancient Asiatic breeds i.e. “Bos Primigenius” and “Bos Longifrons”.
Though they are pretty much like their other cousins still their distinctive physical appearance makes them look like a medium-sized alien as they have their body and even eyes covered with a long-haired shaggy coat. And their long unique horns are also their distinctive feature.
They are the only medium-sized cows you are probably going to see in the present but who knows the future. The cow’s height remains between 90 to 106 centimeters (3 to 3.5 feet) and the bulls stay under 120 centimeters (4 feet). The bulls and heifers weigh up to 1800 and 500 kilograms.
In the beginning, they were seen just in a few common colors but the interaction of genes surprisingly added more colors. And now this new generation has six different colors that are dun, black, grey, tan, silver, yellow, and brindle.
This special breed of cattle is superior for its tender beef and butterfat milk. Since their milk production is quite low so they are mostly kept for meat.
Like most of the cattle, Scottish cattle are herbivores so they survive on grasses, stems, and some vegetations.
The reproduction period starts from the age of 2 and goes up to 19 years. The Scottish bulls can mate more than one female but it is recommended to keep the mating process up to 3 or 4 females. As the number goes up the ability to aid in reproduction starts going down. The gestation period for the females is 9 months and if their owners allow, they keep on nursing their kids up to 6 months.
Scottish cattle believe in living in a hierarchy system( a system which ranks individuals on their age and sex) so the bulls are more dominant and they start dominating as they age reaches two.
They are friendly towards other animals and mostly engaged in playful fights, licking, and mounting.
They are strong grazers even winter can not beat their grazing habit and the credit goes to their long distinct horns. So when the other animals are probably starving they are sleeping with their stomach full. They use their horns to reach their food in winter. Not just for food they use their horns to defend themselves against the rivals.
Interesting facts about the Scottish cattle
- The reddish color we now see was a result of intentional cross-breeding. It was done to please the queen.
- Their physical features make them appear tough and aggressive but they are super friendly towards humans.
- They are believed to have a longer lifespan than the other beef breeds as they are seen living up to 20 years.
- They like to graze around for food and they can eat up to 70 kgs in a day.
- They are not suitable to be kept in warmer regions as their thick hairy coat gets unbearably warm.
- They have small teats but incredibly formed udders.
- They were all originally black, frequent cross-breeding added more colors to the Scottish cattle breeds.
- Like Pygmy goats, Potbellied pigs, and rabbits they are great eco-friendly pets.
What is the most popular Scottish Cattle Breed? And what is it famous for?
Aberdeen Angus is the most popular Scottish breed not only in Scotland but in other countries too. It is popular among the livestock keeper for a variety of reasons:
- Classic black color.
- Undemanding nature
- Gentle nature
- Mature behavior
Early maturity and well-marbled meat. But the few livestock keepers find them a little more aggressive than the Red Angus.
Red Angus is more likely to survive in warmer regions but the Black Angus is not good at tolerating heat and it may affect their mood.
Shumaila Ejaz is a passionate farming writer. She has done her basic farming and animal care course from Agriculture university. Shumaila serving as animal care consultant in the area. Relevant to farm desire is research in poultry and livestock. Agriculture and animal farming is a vast field, suggestions should be appreciated.