Native Breed: Highland Cattle

The Highland Coo is the animal that is most associated with Scotland (unicorns aside!), and is the next breed featured in our Native Cattle series. Its distinctive, fluffy appearance has made it a staple in the image of a Highland landscape. In this blog, we’ll explore the history and characteristics of this gorgeous animal. 

The Breed 

It’s clear to see why the Highland Coo developed in Scotland. It has a shaggy, warm coat that is designed to deal with the cold temperatures of the Highlands and Islands, where the breed originates. It comes in a variety of colours from the classic rusty red colour to black, brindled, beige, and others too. It actually has a two-layered coat (like some dogs!), with a soft undercoat and a longer topcoat that is made to deal with the rain and snow.

Originally, there were two different kinds of Highland Cattle, the Kyloe and the Highlander. The former were smaller and from the Isles, although today these are both called Highland.

Another characteristic of this kind of cattle is the ability to live off of relatively poor grazing, as the harsh weather can often affect the quality of the grass in exposed areas. They live considerably longer than most other breeds of cattle, making them ideal of many breeders. They also make incredible mothers, needing virtually zero outside assistance in raising their calves.

While from Scotland, the breed has now been found across the globe and grazes in any harsher climates – even up to the Andes!

The Meat

Like many Scottish breeds, the Highland Coo develops its fat throughout its flesh in order to cope well with the colder climate. This leads to well marbled meat, with a juicy texture and more flavour. Due to the way that it is developed, the meat from the Highland Coo is naturally lower in fat (as it doesn’t have excess back fat like many other breeds). This means it is higher in protein and lower in cholesterol than others, and compares to certain white meats in terms of cholesterol.

At John Gilmour Butchers, we occasionally see meat from Highland Cattle. It is distinctive and of great quality, although more traditionally found in Highland butcher shops. To view our beef selection, click here.

Thank you to for their vast quantity of information on Highland Cattle.