Place diary: The Highland coos chew sloppily on sweet summer grass
My American pal shrieks when she first stumbles upon one particular. With the hilltop ruins of Ruthven Barracks climbing behind them, the horned beasts search like relics from a intense Highland previous. But if they’re not with a calf, there’s practically nothing to worry: Highland cows are mild souls. These types change their shaggy, ginger heads to us, big doe eyes 50 percent-concealed by a tumble of fringe, their maws chewing sloppily on sweet summertime grass. They obligingly pose for photographs, make it possible for a pat.
So charming and Instagrammable are these beasts that a person could be forgiven for suspecting they are strategically deployed by VisitScotland. But their origins have practically nothing to do with tourism. Referred to as Bò Ghàidhealach – the Gaelic cow – or Heilan coo in Scots, they are natives of the north-west of Scotland. Their extensive coats, which also arrive in fetching colourways of black, blonde and brindled, have an oily upper layer for repelling rain and a downy beneath layer for heat.
It signifies these hardy creatures (whose collective noun is “fold”, not “herd”) can remain outdoors in blasting gales, rain and sleet, expanding a thicker coat for winter and applying their extensive, curved horns to forage through the snow. Coupled with their reward for maximising very poor land, they are properly tailored to the punishing ailments of the Highlands and Western Isles, and are excellent for conservation grazing.
For hundreds of yrs they were a mainstay of the Highland property and financial system, prized originally for their succulent meat, wealthy milk and prolonged hair for yarn. Certainly, they are the oldest registered cattle in the environment – their opening entry in the 1885 Herd E-book asserts: “Of all the reps of our British bovine breeds, the Highlander has the grandest and most picturesque head.” Today, they are reared mainly for their substantial-high quality beef, which is 40% lower in extra fat and cholesterol than the common fare.
Again at the Barracks, the July sunshine vanishes into cloud and a cool breeze. A coo gazes at me by way of her lengthy ginger dossan, happy horns curving superior, mouth entire of wildflowers, and assures me that some matters hardly ever alter.
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