Hair and Horns

All Scottish Highland cattle share two traits that make them stand out from other cattle: shaggy coats and impressive horns.

The hair coat is double, with a coarse and water resistant top coat over a thick and downy undercoat. Highlands are registerable in seven colors: yellow; red; white; brindle; silver; dun; and black. Highlands can benefit by regular combings to remove tangles and old hair. We find it to be relaxing and enjoyable for both parties! (If you’re a spinner, we’ve heard the hair felts beautifully, but makes an extremely coarse thread.)

T-Bone, a red bull, and his mother, Sheila, a light red cow. Both are transitioning into their winter double coats in this photo.
T-Bone, a red bull, and his mother, Sheila, a light red cow. Both are transitioning into their winter double coats in this photo.
Annabel is a red heifer with the "mahogany" color variation, resulting in the blonde dossan and tail switch.
Annabel is a red heifer with the “mahogany” color variation, resulting in the blonde dossan and tail switch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both bulls (males) and cows (females) have horns. Calves are born without horns, but within a couple of weeks you can begin to feel the bumps where the horns are forming under the skin, and, depending on the length and thickness of the calf’s dossan, or “bangs,” the horns will be visible by about five months of age.

Bulls’ horns are stout at the base and typically grow forward and slightly upward at the tips, and tend to look mighty. Cows’ horns are gracefully upwept and continue to grow out and up as they age. A mature cow with her giant set of horns is a sight to behold! The horns of both sexes are a bone color with darker tips.

Aside from being beautiful to look at, the horns are useful as well. Mature animals use their horns to spar, sometimes aggressively as when establishing herd rankings, sometimes lazily, as when playing or as part of the mating ritual. The horns are useful tools as well. At Skookumchuck Farm, we frequently see our animals using the tips of theirs to scratch itchy spots (it’s amazing how far they can reach!), and Sheila, our lead cow, uses hers to pull apple tree branches down to her mouth.

For interesting reading about Highland coat colors and other traits, visit Australia’s Bairnsley Highland Cattle.

Bridgit at age 2.5. Note the upward and very Viking-like stance of her horns.
Bridgit at age 2.5. Note the upward and very Viking-like stance of her horns.
Bridgit at 3.5 years of age. Note the change in the shape of her horns.
Bridgit one year later at age 3.5. Note the change in the shape of her horns.