The Highland Cow, The Gentle Giant of Scotland

Covid19 may have curtailed our travel plans for the time being, but that does not stop us from travelling.   A few weeks ago, when I was bitterly lamenting the indefinite delay of our 2020 travel plans to Scotland, Don reminded me that “when we stand still, the world comes to us.”

A conversation with my friend, a Highland Coo

In the days that followed, the world obliged and brought Scotland to me in the form of a ‘coo cam.’  Yes, Highland cows (aka coos) have knocked on my door and asked to come in for a visit.  You may well ask how this is possible?

According to Andrea Smith, writer for the Lonely Planet, “Scotland has launched a video starring its adorable Highland cows to bring a flavor of the country to the world. It aims to bring a smile to those whose trips to the country have been canceled, while also inspiring future visits.”

Highland cows are known as the gentle giants of Scotland.  The poster that greets visitors at the Glasgow Airport has a portrait of a Highland cows with the welcoming message: “Friendly Locals! Discover Scotland’s amazing castles and unique Highland cows.”  

Travel with me virtually as I go back to Scotland and meet up with these marvelous creatures. I understand that they are the oldest registered breed of cattle in the world.  The Scottish Highlands are known for their cold winters, but Highland cows have a double coat that keeps them warm.  Beneath their iconic long outer hair, there is a downy undercoat.  They have a regal presence with bulls reaching weights up to 800kg and cows up to 500kg.  The name for a group of cows is herd, but not for Highland cows.  Their collective name a ‘fold’ of Highland cows which came from the open shelters where they can be kept in over winter.

Highland cows have been popular throughout history.  Cattle thieving was commonplace, so an official Watch was set up which allowed farmers to pay to retrieve their cattle.  Remember Rob Roy MacGregor?   He operated one of these Watches. I understand that was a cattle dealer and yes, sometimes a thief. Even Queen Victoria expressed an opinion about how she liked the “red” coloured cattle.

I met up with a few Highland cows on the Isle of Skye and the tranquil Island of Iona.   They were gracious and generous hosts.

80 Comments Add yours

  1. Lavinia Ross says:

    Someday I hope to see Scotland. And I do love those cows!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      They are such gentle creatures. I had wandered off the pathway and was delighted to meet up with a huge bull. What you didn’t hear because of the strong wind, was when I called out to him and said, “please come over and talk to me.” I thought he was moving away until I realized he had come closer to me. I let him have the last say….moo!

      Liked by 5 people

    2. I would love to visit Scotland. Great photos of cows, one of my favorite subjects. The Highland cattle are especially beautiful, their hair so well suited to their harsh environment. Very interesting that that a herd is called a fold. My sister and her husband have a ranch in northeast Texas, and they recently had a four-inch snow, very unusual. My brother in law rushed out to feed the cattle with hay that night, concerned that the poor dears wouldn’t be able to cope with the strange substance covering the ground.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Clanmother says:

        I can understanding your brother-in-law’s concern. My mother grew up on a farm in Nebraska during the depression. She has fond memories of milking and taking care of calves. She said the milk tasted so good and the cream was thick and perfect for coffee.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. indiferent says:

    Super article! Indeed, wonderful creatures! The life goes on, dear friend 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      How wonderful to see your comment! Very much appreciated. Yes, your are so right. Life does go on. Sending many hugs your way.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. OOH. BAck to fully admire the Heilan’ coos. They Are wonderful beasties, aren’t they? And YOU will come come to Scotland. We are destined to meet. Thank you so much for this wonderful post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you for your heartwarming thought. We WILL come back. When we visited Scotland in 2008, we met up with Hamish the Highland Coo at the Trossachs Woollen Mill at Kilmahog, near Callander. I love the story of how he was saved. I read recently that had passed at the ripe age of 22 years. https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/tears-hamish-uks-oldest-highland-4669973

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I rad about him. Amazing. Aye, haste ye back. It WILL happen. I feel it in my bones. I know it is hard to see right now but it will. Callander is a nice place. We have only driven through it once. that was on the way to Glencoe but it is nice. AS for what we were doing taking such a detour?? Well that was the day the road was closed at Crianlarich and it took us like 7 hours to rejoin it a hundred yards from where we’d had to leave it.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave Astor says:

    An amazing creature in an amazing landscape, Rebecca! Thank you for the sights and sounds and words! Your mention of Rob Roy MacGregor brings to mind Sir Walter Scott’s “Rob Roy.” An excellent novel — though, oddly, despite the title, Rob Roy isn’t the main character in the book but rather a prominent secondary one. Highland cows, however, appear to always be the stars. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      When I was looking for the Highland coo photos,I was thinking about you reading the entire Outlander series. The photos of the Highland coo nibbling by the fence was on the Isle of Skye. We first traveled to Skye in 2008 when there were relatively few tourists. Then came the Outlander mini-series which changed everything. When we returned in 2016, a mere 8 years later, Skye was overrun by tourists who wanted to connect with Jamie and Claire. We had to book our bed and breakfast a year ahead. This is a testament to the power of storytelling. I’m so glad that you travelled with me to Scotland. P.S. I did touch the stones – nothing happened. LOL

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Dave Astor says:

        An “Outlander”-caused tourist boom is definitely a mixed blessing, Rebecca. And — ha 🙂 — I guess it’s good nothing happened when you touched the stones; blogging and podcasting from the 1700s would be quite a challenge!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        You would be amazed by how many people touched those stones, hoping for the spark to happen. We are fascinated by what was and try to find our way back. Again, my gratitude goes to writers and poets, musicians and artists that bring us the stories.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. J.D. says:

    Sorry to hear that your trip was postponed. The coo cam is such a delightful idea. Leave it to the Scots. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Ah, Julie, I think of Robert Burn’s thought: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men Gang aft a-gley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain For promis’d joy.” We make plans and then life happens. I am so glad that you joined me on a windy day on Iona. I agree – leave it to the Scots to find a way into our hearts.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Klausbernd says:

    Dear Rebecca,
    we loved this highland cattle when travelling through Scotland’s north. I always had to stop when we saw some because Dina wanted to take photographs of her friends. But you wouldn’t believe it, on and off some farmers keep highland cattle here as well.
    Thanks for this great post.
    With Love and big hugs
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I knew that Dina would love these magnificent creatures that have a gentle spirit. I understand that they have an excellent social hierarchy and understanding of their own place within it. They seem to have figured out how to settle differences amicably. In other word, Highland cows do not have fights. I have often wondered if humanity is the most advanced creature on this earth?!!! Sending many hugs and love back to my dear friends, the Fab Four of Cley.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you for inviting us to spend a few moments with the gentle giant in his beautiful surroundings. I can see why you want to go back to Scotland!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      The trips to Scotland all began when my son Thomas decided to learn how to play the bagpipes. We have been following the bagpipes since the time he picked up a chanter. Thomas was especially interested in piobaireachd which is Gaelic for ‘pipe playing’ or ‘pipe music’. It is what is considered the classical music of the Great Highland Bagpipe. It is also called Ceòl Mòr, or ‘big music which distinguishes piobaireachd from other forms of pipe music – marches, reels, jigs – which are referred to as Ceòl Beag – the Little Music. Jack Lee (Simon Fraser University Pipe Bank) is a legendary piobaireachd player. I enjoy the meditative quality of the music. Check out this link: https://youtu.be/r5syxIK2lnE

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I just checked out the link. I think bagpipes sound better outdoors than in an enclosed space. The sound needs room to breathe, so to speak!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clanmother says:

        I am delighted that you checked out the link, Liz. Piobaireachd is not easy to describe. Nothing resembling it has been discovered in any other country in the world. As well, the Great Highland Bagpipe is the only instrument which can reproduce piobaireachd satisfactorily to the ear of those who love this form of music. (They like the enclosed space but everyone wears special earbuds). In 2016, we attended the Argyllshire Gathering Piping Competition In Oban, Scotland. where hundreds of pipers from across the world meet every August. This gathering first came into being in 1871 and is considered the pinnacle of the piping competition year. We spent a full day listening to Piobaireachd. It was the most extraordinary event. I think it will be held virtually this year on August 25 and 26!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. What caught my ear as I was listening was an undertone of some kind that didn’t seem dependent on the piper’s breathing. I was wondering how he did that!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Clanmother says:

        It’s in the drones and very difficult. Very few can play this type of music. There are stories connected to each of these of these prices. Many of theme are laments. Thomas played on that was especially moving, call Lament for his children. I understand the author of the tune, one of the MacCrimmon’s lost several of his children to the plague. I am not certain if this is the exact story, but it was for the loss of children.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Thank you for the additional information, Rebecca. My thought as I was watching the piper perform was that his playing looked effortless but must take a great deal of skill.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Gentle giants indeed and beautiful creatures. What a wonderful encounter!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Wasn’t he magnificent, Marina!!!Most photos of Highland coos have the horns pointing upwards as in the first photos. That signals that they are females. The bulls have horns pointing outward. Either way, they have this beautiful hair that seems to float in the wind. Thank you for joining me on a windy day on the Island of Iona.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It was a pleasure, my dear Rebeca!!!! xoxoxo

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Mary Jo Malo says:

    Oh Rebecca, this just tickled me! They are truly beautiful creatures in a gorgeous landscape. You probably wanted to run your hands over his amazing coat. I first learned about them from TV’s Outlander fans back when I followed on social media. Here are some Christmas cookie recipes to add to your repertoire which also includes other highland denizens: 🙂

    http://outlanderkitchen.com/posts/highland-christmas-cookies

    Bon appetite…thank you…and hugs!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I LOVE this link and enjoyed going through all the recipes and how they are attached to the different episodes of Outlander. That scone recipe looks amazing. You always have the best places to visit. Recipes are another way to travel the world virtually. Sending many thanks and hugs back your way.l

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Meg says:

    They are the definition of cuteness! I think it would be delightful to see one (or more in person). I can see you made a new friend too!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I met up with my friend when I was on the way to the Iona Abbey and happened to see a small trail off to the right that would take me closer to the beach area. That is when I met my friend who was fenced off just across a small enclosure. I was so surprised that he responded to my request for a conversation. A couple of things I learned that day: 1) going off the well-worn path leads to unknown adventures. 2) Highland coos understand our language better than we understand theirs. So glad you joined me!

      Liked by 3 people

  11. Dear Rebecca, I love Scotland, its nature, the strong wind and above all your conversation with this very special friend! I also remember the wisky very well!! One day you will certainly manage to go back to your beloved country:) All the best Martina

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Did you ever read Pascal Mercier’s book, Night Train to Lisbon. I read this quote somewhere and determined that I was going to read the book, which was profoundly moving: “We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.” I am so glad that we can travel virtually. Sending many hugs your way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This quote is so beautiful and true,Rebecca, and the book and film are jewels for me! Last year I read also, more ore less, „ the weight of words“ by Pasqual Mercier! It is about freedom literature gives us and about the freedom we have to make our choices in life! In this sense I wish you a very good trip😄Martina

        Liked by 1 person

  12. When my daughter returned from a trip to Scotland years ago, all she talked about was the “woolly coos.” I’ve had a fascination since and can’t wait to go there and see them for myself. Virtual travels will have to do for now, Rebecca, so thanks for taking me along!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      We must travel there one day together when travel comes back! There are many blogger friends on the other side of the pond. The woolly coos are waiting for our arrival.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I will get there eventually. 🙂 I’m determined.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. jackhughesbooks says:

    beautiful animals aren’t they.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      They are indeed, Paul. They remind me that gentleness and kindness is a wonderful way to live.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Resa says:

    I’d date that cow, just for his hair!
    All of my boyfriends, and 1 hubs all had/have long hair.
    These cows are too, beautiful to be food! Well, I say that about all cows.
    I am a veggie, and I wish (without prejudice) that everyone was a veggie!
    Thank you for sharing this beauty with us, Rebecca! {{hugs}}

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I read that milk from Highland coos has a very high butterfat content and that they produce about 2 gallons a day. I’m so glad that you met up with my gentle friend. He has a way with words (moos) doesn’t he! Hugs and more hugs coming back you way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Resa says:

        Moo & moo {{hugs}} to you!

        Liked by 2 people

  15. Queen Victoria had good taste in cows. These long-haired beauties are magnificent. How fortunate you were to have a close encounter of the bull kind. I’m sure you were both equally charmed by the other. 🤗😘

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I learned something new today, Sylvia. Don said he remembered reading somewhere that Highland Cattle from Scotland were imported to Canada. So I went on a internet search and found out that they indeed made the crossing: “Highland Cattle were first imported into Canada from Scotland in the 1880’s; one bull by The Hon. Donald A. Smith (Lord Strathcona), Winnipeg, and one bull by Robert Campbell, Strathclair, Manitoba, who later also imported five females. History has also recorded the presence of Highland Cattle in Nova Scotia during these early years.”
      Now, it appears that we have a new breed of cattle: The Canadian Highland Coos!http://afs.okstate.edu/breeds/cattle/highland/hlcanad.html/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s really interesting. Well done, Don’s memory. 👏🏻We never stop learning. 🤗🤗

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        Oh, Sylvia – isn’t that the best gift of all!

        Liked by 2 people

  16. elisabethm says:

    Lovely Scottish scenery 💚 As if I was there for a wee while 💚

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I knew you were with me, Elisabeth. By the way, I was checking into the links between Scotland and Russia and was amazed by what I found. I thought that you would enjoy an article that includes this passage: “The Scottish and Russian culture is not as different as one may think. For example, they both share the same patron saint, which is Saint Andrew. These two cultures reflected on one another and instigated the transference of cultural flare, for example one of the churches in Leith, which was Scotland’s busiest ports at the time, had its ceiling decorated in a Russian style. This evangelism also led to the renaming of an avenue in one of the ports of Russia to Scotland Avenue.”https://www.historyscotland.com/history/scotland-and-russia-links/
      This would make an excellent podcast conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. elisabethm says:

        Fascinating article, thank you so much! It seems indeed like there are several connections between the two countries.
        Interesting that you should mention a podcast, because I listened to this Scottish library podcast a while ago:
        https://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/podcast/after-lermontov/

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Clanmother says:

        Thank you for this link! A wonderful podcast. I have signed up to receive updates from the Scottish Poetry Library. For me, listening to poetry is a meditative experience. There are so many emotional nuances in the spoken word.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. elisabethm says:

        Yes, especially poetry is nice to listen to! Nice also that you signed up with them.

        Liked by 2 people

  17. What an unexpected — and adorable star of your post, Rebecca! This is marvelous. Thanks for making me smile. Hugs on the wing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am delighted that you enjoyed meeting up with my friend. I was so surprised that he came over to “talk” with me. When I first saw him, I called out and asked if he would like to have a conversation. I thought he was moving away and then realized he was trying to get closer. It was one of those serendipitous moments. Hugs coming back on the wing!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. So many animals like that respond positively when we just speak to them warmly. ❤ What a lovely day that would be.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. Scotland is such a beautiful place! Just looking at these wonderful creatures is calming!!! So glad I read this post today…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am glad that you joined my friends and me, Linda. Highland coos are known for their gentleness. Isn’t it interesting that people will travel from far distances just to experience being in their presence. Kindness is indeed calming.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Ms Frances says:

    A most delightful video of this resident of Scotland. Your choice of putting the cows in just the right place to see their two coats of hair, the outer coat is long! The pasture where they road and live is beautiful. This post is especially interesting to me because I grew up of a farm and was friends (as it were) to various breeds of cattle and also had the privilege of taking care of them, helping with milking, teaching young calves to drink out of a bucket when taken early from their mothers and monitoring their life in the pasture.. Oh, the stories that a person who lived on a farm could tell of their cattle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Oh, Frances – we must have a podcast about what it was like to milk a cow. I tried it once and found that it was very difficult if you did not know the proper way of milking. Looking forward to this conversation. Hugs!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. myplaidheart says:

    I love Highland cows. I dd not know that a group of them is called a ‘fold’. Interesting! Here’s hoping we’ll be able to go back soon.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I share your hope of a return to Scotland!! What surprised me was that our Canadian Highland breed came from the Highland Coo. Looking forward to celebrating Robbie Burns day on January 25, 2021.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. myplaidheart says:

        Happy Burns Day!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Clanmother says:

        Thank you for celebrating with me!! Looking forward to the Haggis!!

        Liked by 1 person

  21. Annika Perry says:

    They definitely have a presence to them and I enjoyed coming across them as I travelled the islands and around Scotland! I could have done with that double layer of coat though … I seriously never stopped being cold in Scotland! Great idea about the video and I never fail to be in awe of people’s creativitiy and imagination during these times! Every little bit helps! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Ah, the bracing climate of Scotland!! I love hearing the sound of bagpipes over the howling wind. Like those wonderful Highland Cows, we need, as you noted, two layers of coats. When we travel to Scotland, we take two coats, one of which is a windbreaker which shields us from the blustering wind (we always travel off season because we like this type of weather). I’m so glad that you joined me and my friend for a great conversation. Sending hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

  22. mariezhuikov says:

    I just love these “coos.” Even my dog looked like one of them. Can’t wait to get back there to see more.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am so glad you came with me to Scotland virtually. I can’t wait to travel back to the Highlands. On January 25, 2021 I will be celebrating Robert Burns!!! Thank you for your comments – very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  23. Jean-Jacques says:

    Once again, my apologies, for this tardy reply to a sight of yours that deserves naught of the sort, for such a beautiful creature and your choice of sharing this symbol of gentle peace, in beautiful Scotland. A gift that gives our troubled times and consequently tired minds, a soupçon of peaceful contemplation! Thank you for this, Rebecca …

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      You are never late to the party, Jean-Jacques. In fact, the party begins with your arrival. These are such gentle creatures, who know how to live together peacefully, something that seems to be a difficulty for humanity. Are we the most advanced species on this earth, I ask you?!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Jean-Jacques says:

    As I look back and the longer I live, the more I am given to believe that despite our pretentious self-appraisal as being the best and the most, we are not. I realize that given the opportunities we supposed humans have had, if the same had been available, circumventing the human abilities to greedily hoard, all the other species given equal access, we humans would be far less advanced. As in possibly competing with our fellow creatures, based on our claim to fame so far, at the scale level for supposed humans would rank with the worm, says I tongue in cheek, though half believing my own assessment…!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      You have a marvelous way with words, Jean-Jacques and always give a lift to my day.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. This post is so well written. We will definitely visit Scotland and would love to meet these beautiful cows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments. Once day, travel will come back. You will love meeting up with the Highland Cows!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  26. JT Twissel says:

    Definitely must visit with these beauties! Brought a smile to my face ❤️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Clanmother says:

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comments. Very much appreciated!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  27. JT Twissel says:

    I’m hoping to get over there someday!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      You will love it and always want to return. There is something about the Scottish Highlands that draws us into its ancient past.

      Like

  28. picpholio says:

    We know these Highlanders from our nature reserves in Belgium. They are impressive and gentle if you give them some space.
    Greetz, Rudi

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Clanmother says:

      I am delighted that you stopped by, Rudi! I agree, they are impressive and gentle. But I think it is a good idea to give them space. I was so pleased when my friend came to talk with me. I thought that he was walking away and was so surprised when he came closer to let me know that he heard my voice! It was a lovely moment.

      Like

You're invited to join the dialogue!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.