How to Meet a Highland Cow in Scotland

In mid-December, I enjoyed a quick weekend in Scotland to complete my goal of visiting all four regions of the United Kingdom. As a self-proclaimed cattle enthusiast, I knew I had to pet a true Highland cow while I was visiting, so I arrived in Edinburgh determined to find my way to the highlands.

I wasn't sure how I'd get myself into the Scottish Highlands, but from previous experience, I knew bus tours would be available from the capital. I started doing some research, likely with the Google search "petting highland cows in Scotland" until I saw the words 'free' and 'coo' appear in the results. I was sold. I reserved my seat on the bus the night before departure.

Truthfully, I didn't know much about the breed other than the shaggy-hair, beef production and Scottish heritage. According to our tour guide, "they're too cute to eat now," but traditionally Highland cattle were driven into stopover towns down from the highlands and were a primary beef-producing breed. Now, they are used as "natural lawnmowers" for pastureland. The breed can still be used for meat, but modern tastebuds gravitate toward fattier steaks produced by breeds like Angus or Charolais. Our guide even mentioned a steak in Edinburgh probably comes from an "Aberdeen Angus."

However, there are a few things you might like to know before meeting a shaggy bovine.
1. They have horns. Horns that can get uncomfortably in the way of selfies if you're not careful. Believe me, I know.
2. Although they're domesticated and enjoy carrots, it's likely they don't interact with humans often when they're only grazing. I wouldn't advise entering a field alone or approaching them without approval.
3. Cows will be cows. They will be curious about you at first, but you'll only be something new to them for a little while. Eventually, they'll just go back to moseying around the field.
4. Highland cattle don't only come in the redheaded variety!

My experience meeting four lovely Highland cows (and yes, they were cows, I saw the udders) was an incredible one, and I'd encourage everyone to respect and enjoy the bovine species, shaggy-haired or not; in Scotland or not. They're quirky, cute and contribute to both a balanced diet and aspects of environmental sustainability. I think it's pretty great a species can be adorable and useful.

Did you enjoy reading about my Scottish Highland experience? You can watch it unfold in vlog form here!


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