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The Highland breed: majesty from Scotland

The Highland cattle breed: strength and character in the mountains

In the vast panorama of cattle breeds, the Highland emerges as a majestic figure, at times mysterious and fascinating.

Originating from the moors and hills of the northern regions of Scotland, this breed has a distinctive personality and a unique physical conformation that make it recognizable among thousands - in fact they are often also a real tourist attraction!

Characterized by a long and thick reddish brown coat, an impressive coat of coarse hair that allows it to face the elements of the mountains, the Highland embodies the strength and resilience that the wild nature requires.

Origins and history of the Highland cattle breed

The origins of the Highland cattle breed are rooted in the ancient Scottish lands. These cattle have adapted for centuries to the harsh climatic conditions and rugged terrain of the Scottish Highlands, where only the hardiest animals could survive.

Despite the lack of written records, it is estimated that the Highland breed has existed for at least 2000 years.

These animals were raised primarily for their meat, but also for their milk and leather. Furthermore, they are very long-lived, think that they live on average from 15 to 22 years!

Spread of the Highland cattle breed in Italy

In Italy, the administration of the selection of the Highland breed has been entrusted to the National Association of Charolaise and Limousine Cattle Breeders (ANACLI), responsible for registering the subjects in the herd register and issuing the dedicated zootechnical certificates.

Currently, Highland cattle in Italy are bred in 75 zoological farms in 7 regions of the Bel Paese, with a prevalence of farms located in Trentino due to the climatic conditions. Overall, the number of animals in Italy reaches 740.

Morphological characteristics of the Highland breed

The Scottish Highland stands out for its unique morphological characteristics which make it immediately recognizable to the eye.

The dimensions are compact, and the size is small. Its skin, thick and elastic, is covered by a coat that can vary between black, red, dark gray, silvery white and yellow.

This coat is characterized by a long, thick and bristly, almost oily outer coat, which plays an important role in insulating the animal from the elements and protecting it from the harsh temperatures and elements of mountainous areas. Beneath this layer is a soft, fluffy undercoat.

The head of Highland cattle is a distinctive feature: small, masculine in bulls and gentler in cows.

The forehead is covered by locks of thick hair that cover the eyes and extend to the muzzle, while a long and abundant mane gives further character.

The eyes, large and lively, and the symmetrical ears covered by hair complete the distinctive appearance of the head.

The horns, beautiful, robust and majestic, in the shape of a lyre, are inclined forward and pointing upwards, recalling those present on some Viking hats.

The morphology of the front of the Scottish Highland is equally remarkable. The neck is of medium length and well attached to the shoulders, while broad and muscular shoulders support a broad chest. Developed dewlaps are a characteristic trait of males. The forelimbs are robust, with regular perpendiculars and covered with hair, and the feet have very resistant claws.

The back line is straight, and the loins stand out for their breadth and robustness. The belly is rounded and contributes to the harmonious appearance of the animal. The rump, long and wide, has a tail head in a horizontal position with respect to the back, with an abundant tuft of hair.

The hind limbs of the Highland have regular perpendicularity, and the thigh appears fleshy towards the leg. The hocks, wide, and the feet with well-shaped hooves complete the profile of the hind limbs.

In cows, the udder is large and well anchored, with regular quarters and medium-sized teats, arranged in an orderly manner. These morphological traits help define the unmistakable appearance of the Highland, a breed that embodies the robustness and beauty of the wild lands of the Scottish Highlands.

Temperament and adaptability of the Highland breed

The Highland is known for its very docile and calm temperament.

Despite the majestic and imposing appearance that can be deceiving, these animals are generally calm in nature, which makes them ideal for breeding even on small plots of land.

Their adaptability and intelligence are two of the breed's most striking characteristics: they can thrive in both flat lands and mountainous areas, finding nourishment in lower-quality grass and withstanding the harshest winters.

Use and importance of the Highland breed

Meat from Highland cows is considered high quality, thanks to its lean texture and distinctive flavour. Its low fat content makes it popular among health-conscious meat enthusiasts. In addition to meat, Highland cow milk is also popular, although it produces a relatively modest amount.

Beyond food, the Highland breed plays a significant role in Scottish culture and traditions, symbolizing the strength and perseverance of the Highland wilds.

The Highland breed in the modern context

In the modern world, the Scottish Highland cattle breed continues to gain popularity for its ecologically sustainable nature and contribution to biodiversity.

Its ability to exploit marginal lands and adapt to difficult conditions makes it an attractive choice for ranchers wishing to practice sustainable resource management.

Furthermore, the unique and charming aspect of the Highland has led to a growing interest in rural tourism and agritourism in the Scottish regions.

Conclusions on the Scottish breed

The Highland cattle breed represents a link with the ancient traditions and wild nature of the Scottish Highlands.

Its imposing beauty, calm character and extraordinary adaptability make it a unique figure in the world of livestock.

In addition to its role in human nutrition, Highland carries with it a history of resistance and resilience, remaining a symbol of connection to the past and commitment to a sustainable future.