Highland cattle are one of the oldest breeds in the world, originating from Scotland as far back as the 6th century. The extremely harsh conditions of the rugged, remote Scottish Highlands created a process of natural selection, where only the fittest and most adaptable animals survived to carry on the breed.
Originally there were two distinct classes; the slightly smaller and usually black Kyloe, whose primary domain was the islands off the west coast of northern Scotland. The other was a larger animal, generally reddish in color, whose territory was the Highlands. Today both of these strains are regarded as one breed--Highland. In addition to red and black, yellow, dun, white, brindle, and silver are also traditional colors.
The breed is characterized by traits of hardiness, self-sufficiency, and longevity. They are excellent foragers and efficient at improving pastures and clearing woodlots. A testament of this ability was in an Oak Savanna Restoration Project in Wisconsin where the cattle and environment thrived. Their moderate frame is ideal for small and large farms alike in various climates and regions of the country. Highlands are found in all fifty states and acclimate well to the environment yet it is best to buy cattle from a climate similar to your farm. The double hair coat is a tremendous asset in adverse weather and is believed to be the reason why they have limited external fat cover. This means less to trim from carcasses and more value retained. The horns not only give them their majestic looks but are helpful with predator control. These cattle have strong maternal instincts and protect their young. In addition, Highland genetics are quite diverse from other breeds so they produce a highly productive cross.