Highland Cow

Highland Cow

Highland Cow

The long-haired Highland Cow are one of Scotland’s most famous breeds. They originated in the Highlands of Scotland, where they were used for meat production. Today, they are still raised primarily for beef. Their hair grows longer than that of other cattle because it contains less protein. This makes the hair softer and easier to comb out.


Highland Cow were traditionally of great importance to the Scottish economy, with the cattle usually being raised for meat and sold in England. Today, the breed is still kept mainly for beef production, although it is now used for dairy products too. In Scotland, there are three main breeds of Highland Cow – the Blackface, Red Poll and Angus. They are known collectively as “the Highlands”. There are about 5 million head of Highland Cow worldwide.

The 1885 herd book describes the two different types of Highland Cow. The one described as the West Highland, or “Kyloe”, originated and lived mostly in the Outer Hebridies, where the climate was harsh and the land difficult to farm. These cattle tended to be small, to have black coats, and to have longer hair. They were named due to the fact that they were moved around, sometimes even across islands. The other type was the Mainland, or “Lochiel”, which came from the lowlands, and was much bigger and stronger. This type of animal could live in poorer soil and was often used for draught work.

In recent times, some farmers have been breeding crossbred animals, combining the best features of both breeds.


Originally, small farmers kept Highlands for dairy production and beef. The Highland Cow registry (“Herd Book”) was established in 1884. A group of cattle is usually called a “herd”.

Although a herd is normally referred to as a “cattle”, it is actually a collective term used to describe a number of individual animals. For example, a herd of sheep might consist of several hundred individuals.

In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II ordered Highland Cow to be maintained at Balmoral Castle. They remain there today.


Highland Cow were first imported into by the mid-19 century by Scottish migrants such…


Highland Cow were first imported into Canadian in the 1880s. The breed was developed in Scotland where it had been used for centuries for meat production. In 1884, Sir John Macdonald, Prime Minister of Canada, introduced legislation to allow the importation of Scottish cattle. The first shipment arrived in 1888 and consisted of three bulls. By 1890 there were about 200 head of cattle in the province of Ontario.

The Hon. Donald A. Smith, Lord StrathCona of Winnipeg, Manitoba and Robert Campbell of Strachclar, Manitoba, imported one each of the same three bulls. The herd increased rapidly and by 1897 there were over 10,000 head of cattle in the prairies.

In 1904, the Dominion government established the Agricultural Research Station at Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, to study the effects of climate, feed and management on beef production. This led to the development of the “Portage La Prairie system”, which emphasized feeding hay rather than grain. The system proved successful and encouraged further imports of high quality grasses such as timothy and fescue.

By the early 1900s, the number of herds in western Canada exceeded 50,000. During World War I, many farmers sold off their herds to help finance war efforts. After the war, demand for beef remained strong and the price dropped dramatically. Many ranchers returned to farming and the industry declined.

However, in the late 1930s, the federal government passed the Beef Act, which allowed the importation of live animals from abroad. The act required that cattle be tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis prior to being imported. These diseases are highly contagious and could spread quickly among domestic cattle populations. To prevent disease outbreaks, the government set up quarantine stations along the borders of Canada. The first station opened near Vancouver Island in 1937.

During World War II, the United States purchased most of the cattle exported from Canada. As a result, the industry rebounded strongly in the 1950s. The Canadian government continued to encourage exports and in 1959, the Export Development Corporation was established to promote trade with foreign countries.

Today, the Canadian beef industry is worth $1 billion annually. About 95% of the nation’s beef supply comes from farms located in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Most of the cattle raised in Western Canada are fed on grasses grown in the Prairies.

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