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8 Scottish Cattle Breeds

Lowline angus cows grazing

There are cattle that are known for their milk production and there are cattle that are known for their meat. Scottish cattle, a collective group of cattle that have their origins in Scotland, are well-known and well-loved among the cattle industry and are kept primarily for the meat that they produce.

Scottish cattle typically produce lean meat, which is meat that has a low fat content. Did you know that when fat is stored in the human body, one of its main purposes is to insulate our bodies and keep us warm? The same thing is true for animals as well.

The reason that Scottish cattle produce meat that is lower in fat content is that most of them have thick, shaggy coats. They don’t need as much fat to keep them warm. But, despite having the ability to produce lean mean in common, there are many differences that distinguish breeds of Scottish cattle from each other. We’ll explain the differences among the eight most popular Scottish Breeds in this article.

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The 8 Scottish Cattle Breeds:

1. Angus Cattle Breed

Aberdeen Angus
Image Credit: Claire2003, Pixabay
Color: Black
Weight: 1,400+ pounds
Lifespan: 15 – 20 years

Angus cattle (also known as Aberdeen Angus to most of the world) are named for the regions in Scotland to which they are native: Aberdeenshire and Angus. Angus cattle are distinguishable from other Scottish cattle due to their black coat, which is less shaggy than other cattle as well. They also do not have horns.

Black is actually the dominant color of cattle in this breed. Another breed of Scottish cattle, Red Angus, is actually the recessive color. Some countries record the Black Angus and Red Angus as two separate breeds, while others register both colors as the same breed.

Black Angus cattle were introduced to the United States in 1873, where they are now the most popular breed used for beef. Other countries with large populations of Angus cattle include Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.


2. Ayrshire Cattle Breed

Ayrshire Cattle
Image Credit: R-Mac Photography, Shutterstock
Color: Reddish-orange and white
Weight: 990 – 2,000 pounds
Lifespan: 10 years

Ayrshire cattle get their name because they originated from the Scottish county of Ayr. While most Scottish cattle are prized for the meat they produce, Ayrshires are unique because they are very prolific at producing milk as well due to being very efficient grazers. In fact, one of the first uses of Ayrshire cattle in early Scotland was to produce cheese and butter.

This breed of Scottish cattle is easily recognized for its red and white hair, which can vary from shades of reddish-orange to mahogany to almost brown in color. They naturally have horns as well, but the horns are removed as calves due to not being practical to have.

Ayrshires are popular among cattle and dairy farmers due to being easy to raise and being able to forage for themselves. All-in-all, this breed is very low-maintenance from a farming standpoint.


3. Belted Galloway Cattle Breed

Belted Galloway
Image Credit: meunierd, Shutterstock
Color: Black and white
Weight: 990 – 2,300 pounds
Lifespan: 17 – 20 years

Belted Galloways, also called “Belties,” have been around since 16th century Scotland in the district formerly known as Galloway. This district was along the coast, so it was very rugged and chilly. As a result, this breed adapted to be very hardy to cold and adverse conditions, as is evidenced by their shaggy coats. Their hair provides plenty of warmth and insulation for the cattle, which is why Belties produce such exceptionally lean and high-quality meat.

Although they are related to the Galloway breed and are both traditionally black in color, Belted Galloways can be distinguished by the white band of fur that wraps around their midsection. Although their natural fur is shaggy, it is sometimes kept short for commercial farming, especially in warm areas. Today, Belties can also be found with red and brown colorings, but they all have that signature “belt” in order to help identify them.


4. Galloway Cattle Breed

galloway cattle
Image Credit: John De Winter, Shutterstock
Color: Black
Weight: 1,000 – 1,500 pounds
Lifespan: 17 – 20 years

Just like the Belted Galloway, Galloway cattle originated from the Galloway region in Scotland somewhere around the 15th or 16th century. Most of the original Galloway cattle had horns, but there were also some that were polled, meaning that they didn’t have horns. Supposedly, this breed was never crossed with other breeds, so the lack of horns was likely due to a genetic mutation. However, breeders decided that they liked the polled look, so they started breeding the cattle to be hornless. Today, most Galloway cattle do not have horns.

Like the Belted Galloway, Galloway cattle are very hardy as a breed. Even though they were originally from a colder climate, they are able to acclimate to warm climates as well. This breed is known for its ability to birth calves easily. This, combined with the female’s maternal instincts, allows Galloways to produce young for much longer than other cattle breeds. The main color for these cattle is black, but they can also be found in red, brown, and dun which is a tan color.


5. Highland Cattle Breed

Highland Cattle
Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay
Color: Red, black, brown, white
Weight: 1,100 – 1,800 pounds
Lifespan: 20+ years

Scottish Highland cattle are named for the Highlands region of Scotland, which is very remote and known for its harsh conditions, especially during winter. Adapting to these conditions was key to the survival of the Highland breed. This led to the development of qualities necessary for survival, including hardiness, longevity, maternal instincts, and being excellent foragers.

As a matter of fact, this is one of the longest living Scottish cattle breeds, having a lifespan of over 20 years. Like other Scottish cattle, Highlands are prized for the lean meat that they produce, due mostly to their long, shaggy coat developed to keep them warm in the cold and wet terrain.

Highland cattle are traditionally reddish-brown in color but can also be found in black and white. Another distinguishing feature is their curved horns, which when combined with their shaggy hair makes this breed easily identifiable.

This breed was at one time very rare and even considered endangered. But, they are growing in popularity, especially in the Northern United States and Canada. As of 2019, they are no longer on the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List, meaning that there are now over 1,000 registered in the United States every year.


6. Luing Cattle Breed

Color: Red
Weight: 1,100 – 2,100 pounds
Lifespan: 20 years

Compared to other Scottish cattle breeds, the Luing is one of the youngest. It was first developed in the late 1940s as a cross between Shorthorn and Highland cattle on the Scottish island of Luing. By crossing these two breeds, a distinct breed was created that was both hardy and easy to get meat from. They also got from Highland cattle the ability to forage and withstand cold temperatures outside, in addition to being easy to breed themselves.

The coat of the Luing is a combination of the shaggy Highland coat and the shorter coat of the Shorthorn. Most of these cattle are red or white, but you may sometimes see them with red and white coloring as well. They have a very thick hide, which is easy to remove to collect meat, a quality that they got from the Shorthorn.


7. Red Angus Cattle Breed

Red Angus
Image Credit: Wild0ne, Pixabay
Color: Red
Weight: 1,200-1,900 pounds
Lifespan: 15 – 20 years

The Red Angus breed originated from the Aberdeenshire and Angus region of Scotland, just like the black Angus did. Remember that the two breeds are actually considered to be the same cow in many places. The major difference is that the color of Red Angus cattle is the recessive color trait. When breeding Angus cattle, it is estimated that one out of four calves will be red, while the other three are black.

Although they are considered to be medium-sized cows, Red Angus cattle are very beefy. They produce a lot of meat. This trait, combined with having a long lifespan and an easy-going temperament, has led the Red Angus to be one of the most popular cattle breeds in the world for producing beef. As a matter of fact, most of the Angus cattle on continents such as Africa, Australia, and South America are red instead of the more common black color.


8. Shetland Cattle Breed

Shetland cattle
Image Credit: Jordon Sharp, Shutterstock
Color: Black, white
Weight: 770 – 990 pounds
Lifespan: 17 – 18 years

Shetland cattle are the smallest Scottish cattle breed. They are named because of their origins on the Shetland Islands of Scotland. In the 1950s, there were only around 40 purebred Shetland Cattle remaining. Although their numbers have increased today, they are still a rare breed and are considered to be at-risk.

The main color of Shetland cattle is black, with or without white. Colors such as red, gray, and brown are possible but rare. They have small horns that resemble Viking horns as well.

Shetland cattle were originally bred to produce milk, and their milk is high in butterfat which is essentially the fatty part of milk. But, Shetland cattle are very easy calvers, which means that they can be crossbred with bulls of all sizes to produce more calves. Because of this, Shetlands are mostly kept for breeding purposes or as suckler cows. Suckler cows feed their young themselves until they are old enough to be fattened for beef production.

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What Is the Most Popular Scottish Beef?

Angus beef is the most popular Scottish beef in the entire world. The reason for its popularity is due to its marbling, which is essentially the amount of intramuscular fat in each cut of meat. The marbling of Angus beef is considered to be exceptional compared to other types of beef and is what gives Angus beef its juiciness, tenderness, and flavor.

Pure Angus beef is considered to be the best, but today Angus cattle are crossbred with other cattle. That means that when determining the quality of the beef, other factors need to be taken into consideration as well. Some of these factors include the lifestyle, diet, and age of the cattle as well as how the meat was processed.

angus
Image Credit pen_ash, Pixabay

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Final Thoughts

Scottish cattle are popular mostly due to the lean meat that they produce, although some do produce milk as well. The reason for producing lean meat goes back to the cold climate in Scotland and the cattle’s ability to adapt to it by developing shaggy fur and general hardiness. Whether you’re looking into purchasing cattle for your farm or are a foodie with an interest in beef, we hope this article provided you with plenty of useful information to take with you.


Featured Image Credit: pen_ash, Pixabay

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