Highland Cow Facts and Terminology

Pedigree Highland Cattle - Doodale Highlanders - The Doodales

These cattle are part of our fold of Pedigree Highland Cattle.  Within the fold we have a bull, cows, heifers, steers and calves.

Terminology

Fold – The collective name for a group of highland cattle is a fold.  The word ‘fold’ dates back to the olden days in Scotland when highland cattle were brought into an open stone shelter at night called a fold.  This protected them from the weather and wolves.

Bull – A bull is a mature male animal used for breeding;

Cow – A cow is a female animal that has had at least one calf;

Heifer – A heifer is a female animal not old enough to have calves;

Steer – A steer is a male animal that has been castrated;

Calf – A young animal under a year old.

Names and Numbers

Our cattle have ear tags with unique numbers and passports as required by DEFRA.  All our cattle are registered with the Highland Cattle Society and our female animals have a certificate showing their family history.  All female cattle are given names soon after birth.  Different owners have different naming conventions.  Our method is to give the calf a name that starts with the same letter as the first letter of the mother’s name.  All highland cattle born at Barr Farm have a ‘surname’ of ‘of Doodale’ – our selected fold name.

Roanaild and her calf Rosophia in 2017

Ruby – Raonaild’s 2015 calf with her own calf Raelie

Rose – Raonaild’s 2016 calf with her own calf, Bob

Rowanna – Raonaild’s 2018 calf, now aged 2.

Above is our oldest highland cow, Raonaild of Hellifield.  Raonaild was born in 2005.  When we bought her in 2014, she had already had 6 calves and was expecting her 7th.  In 2015 she gave birth to Ruby of Doodale.  In 2016 to Rose of Doodale, 2017 to Rosophia of Doodale, 2018 to Rowanna of Doodale and in 2019 her last and 11th calf, a bull calf, Rason. We then decided it was time for Raonaild to retire from being a mother and she now roams the fields with different year groups. In 2020 Ruby gave birth to her first calf, Raelie of Doodale and Rose to a bull calf we named Bob. (Bob was born under the kitchen window of our neighbour, Bob.)

Horns

All highland calves are born with horn buds.  The horns start to be visible within the first few months of life and after about 3 years will have taken their mature shape.  They continue to grow throughout the life of the animal but at a much slower rate. The horns contain blood vessels and are warm to touch.

A bull’s horns usually grow forwards, sometimes pointing slightly downwards and are much wider at the base than the horns of a cow.

A cow’s horns face upwards and are longer and finer at the tip than a bull’s horns.

Bull’s horns

Female horns at 10 months

At 21 months

At 33 months

Pedigree Highland Cattle - Doodale Highlanders - The Doodales

Mature cow’s horns

Coat

Highland cattle come in a variety of different colours – the red, yellow, white, black, dun, silver and brindle.  The genetics controlling the colour of highland cattle is complex. The dominant colour is black but over the years the cattle have been selectively bred to produce mainly red cattle.

Their coat is made up of 2 types of hair.  A short coat close to the skin to retain heat, and the long hair on top to repel rain. This keeps them very warm and means they need less body fat.  The long haired outer coat can reach 33 cm in length. Each year they shed their long outer coat in late spring and regrow it as the weather starts to get cooler in the autumn.

Red

Yellow

White

Black

Dun

Weight

A new born calf will weigh 25 – 40 kg and is about the same size as a large Labrador.  A fully grown highland cow can weigh up to 500kg and a mature bull up to 800 kg.

Dossan

The fringe, or dossan, protects their eyes from wind and rain in the winter and in the summer it protects their eyes from insects.

Looking to buy some Highland Cattle?

Much as we would like to keep every quality breeding heifer that our lovely cows produce, we are approaching our maximum capacity and would prefer to sell good heifers for breeding rather than selling them for beef.  Current details of cattle for sale can be found here.