Back "From behind the shoulder the back should be fully developed and beautifully rounded....., be as straight as possible" This includes near LEVEL or the same distance from the rear hooves to the back, as from the front hooves to the back. This is covered in: "The legs, both before and behind, should be short and strong". The back is straight if the animals back is correct structure and strong. The back is level if the legs are the same length. Short legs in front and long legs in the rear are becoming common in many animals in the U.S.. Longer legs in the rear are structurally incorrect and stress the skeleton and impair movement. At our farm the animal would have severe difficulty/danger running down hill. If your animal or it's parents have a rump that is clearly taller than it's shoulders? Take a critical look at that animal and the standard while you determine if you want to have that in your herd.
Back/Topline Level and Straight ( Bull has hump at shoulder, then flat and level back to tail) (cow flat and level from shoulder to tail)
Horns "bulls, the horns should be strong, and come level out of the head, slightly inclining forwards, and also slightly rising towards the points. Some, however, do not care for this rise,....the masculine appearance is slightly detracted from when the horns rise directly from the crown."
Horns wide set, low set (near ears), come out of head level with bull horns near horizontal and cow horns rizing
Below are long muzzles and narrow head
Young Bull Mature Bull
Body (Width and Depth) "ribs should spring boldly out and be both well rounded and deep " Bone "the bones strong, broad, and straight...
Wide 3 year old Narrow 3 year old
Deep bodied Bull Deep bodied Cow
Short muzzle, Eyes midway between top of horns and end of muzzle
Wide Bull Rear Narrow Bull Rear
Below Calf toplines at 11 months old ( Bull and Heifer ) (Some calves can grow uneven for a while)
If a Highland is on a hill or if the photographer tilted the picture to make the topline level, the highland can appear to have a level straight topline, when in fact, the back legs are 6-12 inches longer than the front legs. Topline should be about parallel to a line drawn between the cattle feet.(the ground)
Pictures on hills: If your Highland has the same length legs and good back, its topline will be straight and about parallel with the hill
The body should be about 2/3 the depth/height of the animal and the legs below the body 1/3 the total body height
Deep bodied 3 year old Shallow Bodied 3 year old
Bull horns level out of head, nearly horizontal Cow horns level out of head then rising
What you buy or breed to, will change your herd.
Look below and decide, how you want to change Your Herd!
Kae and I started with Scottish Highland Cattle because they were the cattle best fitting our environmental needs. Highland Cattle bred to the Scottish Highland Cattle Standard are best suited to our topography, weather, vegetation, and our visual pleasure. We feel we have a responsibility to breed registered animals that are true to the Scottish Standard, regardless of what wins in shows or is popular with other US breeders. After visiting US farms and research, we went directly to the source, Scotland. We wanted to see the cattle in the land they evolved in, were suited to, and talk/visit with long time Highland breeders. It was an eye opening experience and a huge education having the men with 50 years experience, built on generations of family experience, teach us the Scottish standard and important traits of our preferred cattle breed. We left Scotland with even more respect for the breed and the Scottish Highland Cattle Standard.
Kae and I have many years breeding experience. We have more breeding experience in dogs. One of our mentors bred cattle and Bullmastiffs for 40 years and had some of the top animals in the USA many times. Her guidance made clear the similarities in breeding mammals of different species are extensive and she had us study and read books on breeding systems written by old time European breeders that complimented our college learned genetics. Those books gelled the technical aspects of genetics into the real world practice of breeding pure bred animals. She also made clear that breeding "Pretty" to "Pretty" or top winning show animals to top winning show animals was NOT a "Breeding System"
A quote from one of our mentors. "The surest way to screw up a breed is to have people that don't use the animal for it's intended purpose, in it's natural environment, take a fancy to that animal." Our trip to Scotland was to see our breed in their natural environment, being used for their intended purpose, under the care of multi generational herdsmen. We want no part repeating in cattle what we have seen others do to many dog breeds.
We feel a great responsibility to breed Scottish Highland Cattle to "The Scottish Highland Standard" and not Change or "improve" the wisdom imparted by the characteristics listed in that standard. The Scottish Herdsmen and Judges we visited in Scotland made it clear, we have no right to change the cattle to our liking. We understand how fortunate we were to have these men show us hundreds of cattle and spend hours with us , educating us on their standard, breaking it down into specific traits, and explaining the function behind the form.
I will break down a few aspects of the standard most obvious when looking for an animal to purchase. The entire standard is included at the bottom of the page. If you are interested in breeding "Scottish Style" cattle, that look close to the Scottish Standard, comparing animals you are considering purchasing to the Scottish Standard is very important. To find many pictures to compare, Google: American Highland Cattle, American highland show cattle or Scottish Highland Show cattle Scotland.
( bold white quotes are from the Scottish Highland Cattle Standard ; 1885 )
Head "it is most proportionate to the body of the animal, and is broad between the eyes, while short from the eyes to the point of the muzzle." "muzzle should, when looked at from a similar point, be short, though very broad in front, and with the nostrils fully distended"
Short wide head, Eyes wide set, Broad wide muzzle, with open nostrils.
Hair "The hair, of which there should be a great profusion, more particularly on the parts indicated, should be long and gracefully waved"
Foot structure is genetic. How the hooves grow is also influenced by environment (Diet, wetness, type of substrate cattle walk on, etc) We hate working on cattle hooves and we do not keep or breed cattle that need hooves trimmed or have bad feet for other reasons.
Good feet that have never been trimmed or doctored on 6 year old Bull Bad feet Below or Google "Highland Cattle feet to see bad feet"
Hooves " the hoofs well set in and large"
We work continually to breed animals that fit the Scottish Standard, while improving the temperament and MATERNAL traits of our animals. We believe the MATERNAL traits passed down by the bulls are the most overlooked in breeding. We have bulls and cows producing 50-60 pound calves that are calved easily, eat unassisted soon after birth, and thrive on their mothers milk. Our bulls are bred because of the maternal traits of their parents. Some traits of Scottish Highland Cattle are not included in the Scottish Standard. In 1885, Scottish Highland Cattle were bred by professional herdsmen that all worked to have tight udders, small teats and other traits that made the cattle hardy and better mothers while needing less care. Today it is most important to inspect Maternal traits also. Breeding animals with traits different from the Scottish standard, and especially breeding two animals that share traits different from the Scottish Standard moves the animals and breed further from the correct conformation. The Breed Standard is our "Blue Print" for breeding at BIG RIDGE FARM.
This famous sketch depicting the noble head of the Highland cow, adopted by breeders and breeders' organisations all around the globe, was first used to preface "In Retrospect", a short account of the founding of the Highland Cattle Society of Scotland in 1884, including the description of the breed unchanged to this day.
The Society is very proud indeed to have created such a popular and enduring icon of the Highlander that binds the worldwide community of Highland cattle breeders.
The Various Points of the Highlander may be noted as follows:-
Of all the representatives of our British bovine breeds, the Highlander has the grandest and most picturesque head; it is, indeed, to his head that he owes his great favour among artists. As a rule, it is most proportionate to the body of the animal, and is broad between the eyes, while short from the eyes to the point of the muzzle. The forelock between the eyes should be wide, long and bushy, and any nakedness or bareness there is certain to detract from the appearance of the animal. Some would almost have the hair so wide there as to obscure the eyes, but this in many cases would be allowing one good point to over-shadow another.
The eyes should be bright and full, and denoting, when excited, high courage. When viewed sideways, there should be a proportionate breadth of the jawbones readily observable, when compared with the width of the head in front, whilst the muzzle should, when looked at from a similar point, be short, though very broad in front, and with the nostrils fully distended, and indicating breeding in every way. One of the most noteworthy features in a Highlander, is of course, the horns. In the bulls, the horns should be strong, and come level out of the head, slightly inclining forwards, and also slightly rising towards the points.
Some, however, do not care for this rise, though any drooping is considered to be a very bad fault when between the crown and the commencement of the curve, as this is generally accompanied by a low weak back. Some, too, are of opinion that the masculine appearance is slightly detracted from when the horns rise directly from the crown. This, however, can only readily be detected and commented upon when particular animals are brought before experienced judges, as within a show ring.
As regards the horns of the cow, there prevail two opinions. As a rule, they come squarer out from the head than in the male, rise sooner, and are somewhat longer, though they preserve their substance and a rich reddish appearance to the very tips. The lack of the appearance of substance or "sappiness" about the horns of the male would be very much against the animal in the show-yard. The other taste is that for a female, the horns of which come more level from the head, with a peculiar back set curve, and very wide sweep. A large number of enthusiastic breeders seem to prefer, by comparison, the latter, which gives possibly the more graceful appearance. In all cases, however, the horns of a Highlander, when well set, gives the animal a stamp of nobility which causes it to attract the attention of any stranger who might pass heedlessly by animals of other breeds as merely cows, bulls or oxen.
The Neck and Shoulders
The neck should be altogether clear and without dewlap below. It should form a straight line from the head to the shoulder in the cow, but in the bulls should have that distinct crest common to all animals of the bovine species. This crest should come gracefully down to the roots of the horns, and, being well coated with wavy hair, the masculine appearance of the animal is fully completed. The shoulder should be thick and should fill out greatly as it descends from the point to the lower extremity of the forearm.
Back , Body and Hind-Quarters
From behind the shoulder the back should be fully developed and beautifully rounded. Any slight sinking or hollow is most decidedly objectionable. It should also, as in the Ayrshire, be as straight as possible, and the ribs should spring boldly out and be both well rounded and deep. When measured across the hips the breadth should be very great, and the quarters should be exceedingly well developed from the hips backwards. The thighs should also be well developed, and should show great fullness. Viewed generally, the quarters should be square between the hips and the tail, and from between the tail right down to between the hind feet. The legs, both before and behind, should be short and strong, the bones strong, broad, and straight, the hoofs well set in and large, and the legs well feathered with hair. The animal should be set wide between the fore-legs, and it should move with great dignity and style, as this is considered to be one of the most reliable evidences of careful and true breeding.
The hair, of which there should be a great profusion, more particularly on the parts indicated, should be long and gracefully waved, very much as in what dog-breeders denote wavy-coated retrievers. To have a curl is to possess a decided fault, and one which has of late years become unfortunately too common in some folds. This has been attributed in some quarters to a growing desire to make Highlanders grow big from feeding them higher and housing them more. At any rate, experience goes far to prove that the more exposed they are the greater the profusion of the hair, and the less its tendency to curl. Thus, the reason of the island cattle being always so much better haired than the mainland cattle is owing to their never being housed in winter.
The usual colours are black, brindled, red, yellow, and dun, and there is considerable difference of opinion among breeders as to which is preferable.
In general, as to colour, it may be said that a good herd should possess a mixture - avoiding always all those which indicate unhealthy thrivers. The thickness of the skin, as in all fattening breeds, comes in for a considerable amount of attention, but it has to be borne in mind always that the Highlander has been adapted by nature to withstand great exposure.
Inverness, 10th June, 1885.
Wide calf Narrow calf
Below; Horns high set (looks like they are put on top of head, not coming out the side of head) Also long muzzle, narrow head, poor forelock)
"The forelock between the eyes should be wide, long and bushy, and any nakedness or bareness there is certain to detract from the appearance of the animal. Some would almost have the hair so wide there as to obscure the eyes, but this in many cases would be allowing one good point to over-shadow another."
Contact us at: BIGRIDGEHIGHLANDS@gmail.com