Adorable Fluffy Cows: Images, Info and Where They Are From
Hoards of fluffy Highland cows — or “coos” — are taking over the internet, and for good reason! With their long horns, impressively long and shaggy hair, gentle nature, and expressive personalities, these beautiful bovines look as if they stepped straight out of a fairy tale. Let’s take a closer look at these iconic “fluffy cows” their origins, and their rich cultural history!
What Are “Fluffy Cows”?
The iconic “fluffy cows” taking over the internet are Scottish Highland cows. Also known as “Heilan coos” and “hairy coos”, this fascinating breed of cattle originates in the Scottish Highlands and the Western Isles of Scotland. Female heifers can weigh up to 1,100 pounds, while bulls can weigh up to 1,800 pounds. Both male and female cows have impressive horns, but males are typically thicker and less curvy.
Highland cows stand out from other breeds due to the recognizably “fluffy” appearance of their glorious thick double coats. This dense hair can vary in color, ranging from red to brown, black, brindle, pale silver, and even yellow. However, the most common are the reddish-brown coats, which make up about 60% of the population.
Where Do Fluffy Cows Come From?
Highland cows are the oldest cattle breed in the world. Their rich history traces back to Scotland, where they have thrived for centuries in the harsh and isolated Highlands. The breed’s lineage can be found in the first herd book from the Highland Cattle Society in 1885. However, their roots go back even further — such as written records from the twelfth century and archeological evidence from as far back as the sixth century.
During the eighteenth century, Highland cattle became especially important to the Scottish economy, with thousands sold to England. Highland cattle later made their debut in the United States in the late 1890s. U.S. cattlemen imported Highland cattle to help increase the resilience of their herds.
Still popular in Scotland, today, you can also find fluffy Highland cows in North America, Australia, and Europe. In fact, it is said that the British royal family only eats highland beef from the High cattle that they keep at Balmoral Castle. Queen Elizabeth II started her own fold of Highland cattle back in 1953, and today their descendants roam around the castle’s expansive 50,000 acres. Some of the queen’s cows can trace their lineage all the way back to the reign of Queen Victoria!
Types of Highland Cow Breeds
During the early days, there were two main types of Highland cows. The first, known as Kyloe, lived mainly on the islands along the western coast of northern Scotland. These cows were slightly smaller and usually black in color. The second type roamed the remote Highlands of Scotland and was larger than Kyloe, with a reddish hue to their coats. The two types are now recognized as one single breed, now known as the Highland cow.
In addition, today you can also find miniature Highland cows. These cute cows look much like they’re larger counterparts, but they only grow about 42 inches tall and weigh 500 to 1,000 pounds as adults. In comparison, a regular-sized male Highland cow can weigh up to 1,800 pounds while a female cow can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
Miniature Highland cows are becoming increasingly popular as animal companions and foragers on farms due to their hardy nature and sweet temperament. However, they require a lot of space and do not make good pets for suburban homes. In addition, these smaller-sized cows are still very social herd animals, so they need to live in groups with other miniature cows or similar-sized species. If left alone, miniature Highland cows become overly stressed and their health suffers.
Highland Cows as a Symbol of Scotland
Inseparable from Scotland, Highland cattle are iconic symbols of the country’s rugged landscapes and indomitable spirit. They are a resilient and rugged breed perfectly suited to endure the cold, wet weather and challenging terrain of their Highland homeland. In other words, Highland cattle are not just well-adapted to the Scottish climate — they thrive in it! These incredible cows endure harsh weather conditions with unwavering resilience, capturing the unyielding spirit that courses through the veins of the Scottish people.
In addition, Highland cows are free-ranging animals that are generally self-sufficient, symbolizing the strength and independence of Scottish culture. As an iconic part of the country’s stunning landscape, they also connect the people to the natural world and rugged terrain of the Scottish Highlands.
Today, these beautiful fluffy cows are synonymous with Scottish culture, capturing the hearts of locals and visitors alike. People travel from all over the world to see Highland cattle in Scotland and bring home all kinds of bovine-themed gifts and Scottish souvenirs.
The Incredible Resilience and Adaptability of Highland Cows
While most European cattle are well equipped to brave the cold, Highland cattle are a whole different breed. These incredible fluffy cows have been hailed as the champions of chilly weather — they’re almost as tough as the caribou and reindeer who call the Arctic their home! They even have a longer lifespan than other cattle, often living to be 20 years old.
Generally, a group of cattle is called a “herd”, but Highland cattle gather together in “folds”. This name comes from the open stone shelters where the cows were kept during bitter winters in the Scottish highlands.
The weather conditions of the Scottish Highlands can be very challenging. One moment it could be sunny and warm, and then suddenly the land is drenched in a downpour, snow, or bone-chilling winds. Traditionally, Highland cattle were brought into open stone shelters called “folds” to help protect them from the bitter cold — which is also why groups of Highland cattle are referred to as “folds” rather than “herds”.
Due to natural selection over many centuries, Highland cows have adapted to the challenging environment of the Scottish Highlands. Folds of Highland cows have even been successfully raised in countries with colder winters than Scotland, like Canada and Norway.
Unique Adaptations of the Highland Cow
These incredibly tough and well-adapted cows live and thrive in the harsh weather conditions of their Highland home. In contrast to other cattle breeds, Highland cattle can graze on lower-quality pastures. They often prefer foraging rather than feeding in a barn and often browse amongst trees, shrubs, and weeds. When food is scarce, Highland cows will use their large horns to rake up the snow and dig for roots and buried vegetation.
In addition, their long, shaggy hair creates a wooly double coat. The coarse and oily outer layer protects them against the elements, and the soft downy inner layer keeps them warm and cozy. This unique combination provides insulation and protection against the elements, allowing the cows to thrive in the cold and wet climate of the Scottish Highlands.
Highland Cow Temperament and Behavior
Thanks to their exceptional intelligence and deep understanding of their own social hierarchy, Highland cows are gentle and submissive. Older cattle reign over the fold, with the males claiming a dominant position over their female counterparts. In addition, the offspring of the top-ranking cows of the group automatically inherit a higher social status, like being born into a special bovine royal line. Highland cows are very social animals who rarely show aggression. They also have unique personalities and like to have fun, often licking each other and play-fighting.
The incredibly gentle nature of Highland cows can make them easy to care for, and when socialized from a young age, many even enjoy being around humans. Some seek affection from the humans they know and trust, often walking alongside them. However, you should always exercise caution, as those enormous horns can do a lot of damage!
Highland Cows: Beef, Milk, and Sustainability
Many farmers raise Highland cows for their lean and flavorful meat. The composition of Highland beef is quite different from other cattle breeds, due to their unique adaptations in the tough environment of the Scottish Highlands. Their thick double coats provide excellent insulation, which means the cows don’t need to produce as much fat on their bodies to keep them warm. This produces lean and well-marbled premium beef with a succulent flavor and fine texture. Highland beef is also high in protein content, rich in iron, and has much less fat and cholesterol.
In addition, Highland cow farming offers a more environmentally friendly approach than other breeds of cattle. Highland cows have a gentler impact on their environment, which makes them a more sustainable choice. Their hardy nature, healthy constitution, and gentle temperament make these cows easier to care for and less expensive than other cattle breeds.
Highland cows are also raised for their milk, although due to their smaller teats, they don’t produce nearly as much as specialized milk cows. A single highland cow produces about 2 gallons of milk per day on average, but that’s plenty for personal use. Highland cow milk also has an impressively high butterfat content of up to 10%. Of course, while some farmers find the rich buttery milk delicious and appealing, others say that it is definitely an acquired taste.
Many farmers prefer Highland cattle for agritourism. Tourists from all over the world flock to Scotland to experience the beauty of the countryside and get up close and personal with these fluffy cows. Others also keep Highland cattle for landscape management. These mighty beasts have a knack for grazing in specific areas and helping maintain the balance of the ecosystem.
Are There Other Types of “Fluffy” Cows?
The luxurious long coat of the Highland cow is hard to beat, rivaling just about any spectacular hairstyle you can find. However, there are a few other cow breeds that have a fluffy appearance. Galloway cows, for example, are another furry cattle breed that are native to Scotland. Originating in the seventeenth or eighteenth century, Galloway cows have thick and wavy double-layered coats with coarse and wavy hair. They are usually black, but can also be red or dun. Belted Galloway cows, on the other hand, sport a striking white marking marking encircling their bodies, which looks like a wide belt. There are also miniature belted Galloway cows as well.
Yaks also have some pretty impressive hair. Hanging lower than their bellies, yak hair is dense and long, typically sporting dark colors. However, domestic yaks may also have cream or rusty brown hues. Also known as “hairy cattle”, yaks have large horns and bulky bodies.