HIGHLAND CATTLE are an ancient breed of cattle that has nibbled on Scottish grass from the 6th century. It is still not known if the cattle evolved in Scotland or whether they came from Scandinavia with the Norse Invaders. Many Scholars think that the Highland Cattle are the end result of combining two ancient Asiatic breeds, the Bos Longifrons and the Bos Primigenius. The Highland Cattle inherit their long horns from the Longifrons and inherit their long hair from the Primigenius. Highland Cattle are dual purpose cattle and have provided a supply of milk and meat for many hundreds of years and are still successfully used to provide milk and high quality meat in many countries.
Highland Cattle were imported into Australia in the 19th century, arriving in Victoria in 1841 and later spread to South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania. The recent history of Highland Cattle began in 1954 when two in-calf cows and a bull were imported into South Australia and then during the 1980’s the interest in Highland Cattle rose with articles in newspapers and television shows. Showcasing Highland Cattle at various shows created more interest and even more live cattle were imported.
A.I. programmes started by importing semen from various bulls from Scotland and this still is the case today by the breeders of the highest quality Highland Cattle. Bulls are sourced from the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and United States. The technology also exists to transfer embryos from other countries by following strict quarantine protocols. Highland Cattle are now not brought in live because of danger of introducing diseases not present in Australia for example Foot & Mouth disease and BSE (Mad Cow disease).
The Highlands coat is long on the top and short underneath with the longer hair being coarser so that the animals are protected from the cold weather, yet they moult and can also live in hotter climates as seen here in Australia. The animals are usually docile and easy to handle and this is a reason that makes them so popular – but they do have an established pecking order and this becomes very obvious when they are in their herds. Highland Cattle are known for longevity from other breeds of cattle and can still be calving at 18-20 years of age. They usually calve easily without assistance and are extremely good mothers – these important traits are in danger of being lost in many of the modern commercial breeds of cattle. ‘Longevity reduces replacement cost’