Hairy Coo’s along Route back to our accommodation.
One of the things I wanted to capture on our holiday in Scotland was the famous Hairy Coo’s.
This photo is of the Holy Hairy Coo’s. When we saw the photos at the back of the camera Dad and I said Holy Coo at the same time. So, these cows on Harris are called Holy Hairy Coo’s from now on. Well, that is how I will remember them anyway….
Highland Cattle aka Hairy Coos:
The Highland (Scottish Gaelic: Bò Ghàidhealach; Scots: Hielan coo) is a Scottish breed of rustic cattle. It originated in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland and has long horns and a long shaggy coat. It is a hardy breed, able to withstand the intemperate conditions in the region. The first herd-book dates from 1885; two types – a smaller island type, usually black, and a larger mainland type, usually dun – were registered as a single breed. It is reared primarily for beef, and has been exported to several other countries. Scientific name: Bos taurus Taurus.
Highland cattle descend from the Hamitic Longhorn, which were brought to Britain by Neolithic farmers in the second millennium BC, as the cattle migrated northwards through Africa and Europe. Highland cattle were historically of great importance to the economy, with the cattle being raised for meat primarily and sold in England.
The 1885 herd book describes two distinct types of Highland cattle. One was the West Highland, originating and living mostly in the Outer Hebrides, which had harsher conditions. These cattle tended to be smaller, to have black coats and, due to their more rugged environment, to have long hair. These cattle were named due to the practice of relocating them.
The other type was the mainland; these tended to be larger because their pastures provided richer nutrients. They came in a range of colors, most frequently dun or red. These types have now been crossbred so that there is no distinct difference.
Originally, small farmers kept Highlands as house cows to produce milk and for meat. The Highland cattle registry (“herd book”) was established in 1885. Although a group of cattle is generally called a herd, a group of Highland cattle is known as a “fold”. This is because in winter, the cattle were kept in open shelters made of stone called folds to protect them from the weather at night. They were also known as Kyloes in Scots.
In 1954, Queen Elizabeth ordered Highland cattle to be kept at Balmoral Castle where they are still kept today.
Since the early 20th century, breeding stock has been exported to many parts of the world, especially Australia and North America.
It is estimated that there are now around 15,000 Highland cattle in the United Kingdom.
They have long, wide horns and long, wavy, woolly coats. The usual coat color is reddish brown, seen in approximately 60% of the population; some 22% are yellow, and the remainder pale silver, black or brindle/dun.
They have an unusual double coat of hair. On the outside is the oily outer hair—the longest of any cattle breed, covering a downy undercoat. This makes them well suited to conditions in the Highlands, which have a high annual rainfall and sometimes very strong winds.
Their skill in foraging for food allows them to survive in steep mountain areas where they both graze and eat plants that many other cattle avoid. They can dig through the snow with their horns to find buried plants.
Mature bulls can weigh up to 800 kilograms (1,800 pounds) and heifers can weigh up to 500 kilograms (1,100 pounds). Cows typically have a height of 90–106 centimeters (3–3.5 ft), and bulls are typically in the range of 106–120 centimeters (3.5–4 ft). Mating occurs throughout the year with a gestation period of approximately 277–290 days. Most commonly a single calf is born, but twins are not unknown. Sexual maturity is reached at about eighteen months. Highland cattle also have a longer expected lifespan than most other breeds of cattle, up to 20 years.
The meat of Highland cattle tends to be leaner than most beef because Highlands are largely insulated by their thick, shaggy hair rather than by subcutaneous fat. Highland cattle can produce beef at a reasonable profit from land that would otherwise normally be unsuitable for agriculture. The most profitable way to produce Highland beef is on poor pasture in their native land, the Highlands of Scotland. The meat is also gaining popularity in North America as the beef is low in cholesterol.
The beef from Highland cattle is very tender, but the market for high-quality meat has declined. To address this decline, it is common practice to breed Highland “suckler” cows with a more favorable breed such as a Shorthorn or Limousin bull. This allows the Highland cattle to produce a crossbred beef calf that has the tender beef of its mother on a carcass shape of more commercial value at slaughter. These crossbred beef suckler cows inherit the hardiness, thrift and mothering capabilities of their Highland dams and the improved carcass configuration of their sires. Such crossbred sucklers can be further crossbred with a modern beef bull such as a Limousin or Charolais to produce high quality beef.
For show purposes, Highland cattle are sometimes groomed with oils and conditioners to give their coats a fluffy appearance that is more apparent in calves; it leads some outside the industry to call them “fluffy cows”. Many also call the cows “hairy cows” due to their thick coats.
Information about photo:
- Location: Outer Hebrides, Isle of Lewis and Harris, Scotland, United Kingdom
- Date Taken: 2019-08-20
- Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II
- Lens: Canon Zoom Lens EF-S 18-200 mm F/3-5.6 IS
- Exposure Program: Manual
- Image Quality: JPEG
- F-Stop: f/5.6
- Exposure Time: 1/500 sec
- ISO Speed: ISO-200
- Focal Length: 155 mm
- Metering Mode: Center Weighted Average
- Post Processing: Adobe Photoshop CS6
- Photographer: Coreen Kuhn
Thank you very much for taking the time to join me on my travels through Scotland one Photo at a time. I hope you enjoyed it just as much as I did.
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Have a Blessed day
PS. ☕ I am busy saving for a few upcoming Landscape Photography Trips to Namibia and a few local National Parks here in South Africa. The most important one is honoring my promise to Dad to go back to Scotland and capture the beautiful landscapes and Puffins. Your help to make these trips a reality would be much appreciated in today’s economy.
One thought on “Grand Tour of Scotland: Day 9: 20 August 2019 ~Exploring the Isle of Lewis and Harris #420”
Thank you for the tour today. Holy Coo.
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