Highland cattle, also known as Highlander cattle or Scottish Highland cattle, were selectively bred over centuries under the harsh conditions of the Scottish Highlands to be a rugged and durable breed of cattle. Highland cows can be found throughout North America, but they are also located in Australia, Europe and South America. The term cows refers to female cattle, while steer refers to neutered male cattle. Bulls are males that still have their testicles.
Highland is the oldest registered cattle breed. The Highland Cattle Society created official registries for this breed in 1884. American cattle ranchers imported Highland cows to America in order to improve the bloodlines of their herds. In recent years, purebred Highland cattle have become more commonplace due to their adaptable nature and survival rates.
Highland cattle need little shelter, grain or nutritional supplements in order to reach market size. The breed is especially useful in colder regions due to their resistance to cold weather, although successful Highland cattle herds are located as far south as Texas. Highland cows can eat scrub and brush, unlike other commercial breeds of cattle which require well maintained pasture. Highland cattle suffer from disease less frequently and do not stress easily in harsh conditions.
American ranchers have interbred Highland cows with other breeds of cattle in order to produce premium beef. Since Highland cattle are covered in thick hair, they have less fat than other breeds. This results in full flavoured meat that is marbled but leaner than other breeds. The reduction in fat allows ranchers to obtain higher prices for premium cuts of beef.
Highland cattle are covered in long and wavy hair. The forelock of Highland cattle features long hair which almost covers the eyes. Highland cattle usually have a mixture of different colours, including black, red, yellow, brindled and dun (yellowish brown). Both males and females of the breed have horns. Highland cows possess horns that come out and angle upward, almost forming a 90-degree angle. Highland bulls have longer horns that angle out of the sides and curve slightly upward at the ends.
Highland cattle are very large animals. Mature bulls weigh 816kg. at maturity, while Highland cows weigh 499kg. Highland cows and bulls reach sexual maturity around 18 months. The lifespan of a Highland cow can reach more than 20 years. Steers are usually raised to a weight of 454kg. before they are butchered for meat. At maturity, Highland cattle measure between 3 and 3.6 feet high at the shoulder.