Highland Cows or ‘Heilan Coos’ are beloved not only in Scotland but all over the world. When I was living in Maine (northeast US) there was a small fold at a local farm. Groups of Highland cattle are called folds, rather than herds. This comes from the stone shelters, called folds, where they were kept in winter. As I understand it, they are very hardy and can thrive almost anywhere as long as it’s not too hot. That certainly wasn’t a problem in Maine.
The hair or “bangs” on a coo’s forehead are called a ‘dossan’.
The Highland Cattle Registry (Herd Book) was first established in 1885 and is the oldest herd book in the world, which makes the Highland Cow the oldest registered cattle breed in the world. The most recognizable Heilan Coo hair color is red, but coos can have black, brindled, red, yellow, and dun coats.
Highland coos have the longest coat of hair of any cattle breed. The longer oily outer coat is good protection against water and wind, and the shorter downy undercoat provides some cozy insulation against wild Scottish weather.
As late as the 1890s, there were two distinct types of Highland cattle. Kyloes, from the western Highlands and islands, were primarily black in color. Kyloes lived in harsher conditions, so the coos were smaller and developed longer hair. The mainland coos were primarily reddish, and larger. Crossbreeding between the two over the years has led to only one type now that exists and is registered.
Highland coos are known for their docile nature. Just don’t get between them and their young, as they are very protective.
We had a chance to visit with two different folds. The first was a group of red beauties grazing in a pasture with Stirling Castle in their background. The second was a very friendly fold with the black, dun, and ginger coats in the northwest of Inverness. In each case, we were on a day tour and the coo stops were an unscheduled, but a very popular diversion. If coos are on your must-see list and you are taking a tour, make sure to ask the guides if they know where to find them. If time allows they may be able to squeeze in a quick stop. 🙂