There are 2 types of cattle with long white hair: Highland, sometimes called Scotch or Scottish Highland, and Galloway. Both breeds originated in Scotland, are known for their gentle dispositions and share notable similarities in the face, ears and coat. The primary physical difference between the 2 cattle is that the Highland have horns while the Galloway are hornless.
The Northwest Highland Cattle Association (NWHCA) notes that the Highland was registered as a breed in the United Kingdom in 1884, making it the first registered breed of cattle on record. According to the Vermont Highland Company, Highland cattle were originally bred to supply meat and milk to the farmers of Scotland. They can be 8 different colors including white. Silver Highlands also have white hair, but differ from the traditional white cows and bulls with their black skin, nose and hooves.
Both male and female Highlands also have horns. The females' horns grow outward and curve above the head with the tips pointing toward the sky while the males' grow along the sides of the face, curving outward and forward with the tips positioned slightly higher than the head. The NWHCA proclaims that Highland cattle have longer life spans and produce more calves than other breeds.
Developed specifically for beef production, Galloway cattle sport a thick woolly coat in the winter that is shed to reveal a slick and shiny undercoat during the summertime. According to Mother Earth News, Galloways are known to have more hair than any other Scottish breed of cattle. A rare breed in North America, the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) puts the population in Europe at 10,000.
White Galloways, which have white fur and black or red ears, eye rings, noses and feet, are the rarest of the breed. They originated in America when they were crossbred with White Park cattle. Unlike many other breeds, Galloways generally give birth to their calves without assistance from a breeder or farmer.
Highland and Galloway Beef Breeders
Due to the hardiness and meat quality of these cattle, some breeders sell Highland, Galloway or Highland/Galloway crossbred beef exclusively. Galloway and Highland breeders are able to house their cattle outdoors year-round, reducing the risk of disease, according to the Galloway Meat Company.
From 1986 to 1990, 12 breeds of beef cattle were critically analyzed by the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Nebraska. Out of the 12 breeds, Galloway beef was ranked 1st in flavor and 2nd in both tenderness and juiciness. Highland beef is desirable not only for its taste but also because, as stated by the NWHCA, it is approximately 40 percent lower in cholesterol and fat than most other beef.
- highland cow image by paul hampton from Fotolia.com