Our Breed

The Highland is the oldest registered breed of cattle, with the first herd book being established in 1885.

Sometimes referred to as "The Grand Old Breed", Highlands are arguably one of the most majestic breeds, easily recognisable and once seen, can never be forgotten.

Despite the long horns and unusual appearance, the Highland is considered an even-tempered animal - bulls and cows. They can be broken to lead as easily as any other breed, even more so because of the Highland's superior intelligence.

Highland cattle adapt well in the varying Australian climates. Cold weather and snow have very little effect on them, and in their summer coat - although they appreciate shade - they are able to tolerate the harsh Australian heat.

They have developed into an efficient and versatile beef breed. As natural foragers, they are largely self-sufficient and require minimal maintenance, and in more recent years breeders have recognised the inherent qualities of Highland cattle as a beef breed because of their ability to efficiently convert rough fodder into low fat, high quality beef.

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Highland Beef

Naturally Reared, Naturally Tasty.

The considerable attributes of Highland Cattle make them the first choice to produce specialist beef. Pure Highland Beef is slow-maturing, lean, firm and very low in fat, while at the same time rich in protein and iron. It is unsurpassed for flavour, tenderness and juiceness that comes from having just the right amount of marbling through the meat to give that succulent flavour so typical of old-fashioned traditional beef.

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Highland Breed Ideal

The Breed Ideal (or Breed Standard) represents what is considered to be the perfect conformation traits of a Highland. It is important for breeders to be familiar with and consider the breed ideal to protect the integrity and standard of the Highland cattle breed in Australia.

Below is an overview of the Highland Breed Ideal.

Type

The head, horns, neck, body, hindquarters and legs should be in perfect balance.

Head

The hair between the horns, known as the dossan, should be wide, long - reaching to the muzzle - and thick.

Horns

The horns in the bull should be strong, but not too heavy (heavy horns are undesirable), and come out of the head level, curving slightly forward.

Neck

The neck should be of good length, allowing for natural lift to the head. A bull should show masculinity but this development should not be excessive at an early age.

Body & Hindquarters

From the shoulder back, the top of the animal should be straight, with no hollows, and as wide as possible - particularly between the hooks, or hips, and should not be too hard, which indicates bone on which no flesh will develop.

Legs

The legs should be sturdy and straight with good bone and a good covering of hair, and the animal should be seen to be walking freely and easily, the legs not brushing against each other but set well outside the body.

Hair

Highland cattle have two coats of hair. The outer coat is long and strong and is presumably meant by nature to keep the winter weather away from the skin. The under coat is soft and fluffy to keep their bodies warm.

Sheath & Scrotum

Bulls' sheaths should not be loose or pendulous. The scrotum should contain two testicles well let down of good and even size.

Udder

The udder on females should not be fleshy, coming well forward in line with the body and well up behind; with four teats well apart and of even moderate size.

Type

The head, horns, neck, body, hindquarters and legs should be in perfect balance.

Head

The hair between the horns, known as the dossan, should be wide, long - reaching to the muzzle - and thick.

Horns

The horns in the bull should be strong, but not too heavy (heavy horns are undesirable), and come out of the head level, curving slightly forward.

Neck

The neck should be of good length, allowing for natural lift to the head. A bull should show masculinity but this development should not be excessive at an early age.

Body & Hindquarters

From the shoulder back, the top of the animal should be straight, with no hollows, and as wide as possible - particularly between the hooks, or hips, and should not be too hard, which indicates bone on which no flesh will develop.

Legs

The legs should be sturdy and straight with good bone and a good covering of hair, and the animal should be seen to be walking freely and easily, the legs not brushing against each other but set well outside the body.

Hair

Highland cattle have two coats of hair. The outer coat is long and strong and is presumably meant by nature to keep the winter weather away from the skin. The under coat is soft and fluffy to keep their bodies warm.

Sheath & Scrotum

Bulls' sheaths should not be loose or pendulous. The scrotum should contain two testicles well let down of good and even size.

Udder

The udder on females should not be fleshy, coming well forward in line with the body and well up behind; with four teats well apart and of even moderate size.

Our History

Highland cattle have a strong and vast history, dating back to 1829 when the first Highland Cattle were imported into Australia by various Scottish migrants. Scroll through our timeline that features significant events in our Australian history that have led the breed to where it is today.

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1829

The first arrival of Highland cattle into Australia

They came onboard the Sovereign in 1829, imported by Lieutenant Surgeon Thomas Braidwood Wilson RN, namesake of the town of Braidwood in New South Wales.

1869

The Mayor of Melbourne

Samuel Amess, who made a fortune in the Victorian goldfields and became Mayor of Melbourne in 1869, kept a small fold of black Highland cattle on Churchill Island. It is believed that other cattle were imported into Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania, but as no new blood was introduced, the breed died out.

1954

Melbourne Zoo

It is reported that there were Highlanders in the Melbourne Zoo from the 1940’s and two heifers in Cudlee Creek Wildlife Park, South Australia, in 1966.

1950

Old Cattle

Many good specimens of Highland cattle remain from the original 1950’s imports (known as the “old cattle”), thanks to the dedication of those early breeders.

1970

Artificial Breeding

Artificial breeding has been the major tool in the development of Highland cattle in this country. No fewer than 20,000 straws of semen from outstanding sires have been collected overseas for use in Australia, and this practice continues today with a few dedicated breeders around the country ensuring new bloodlines are continually being injected into the Herdbook.

1975

New Zealand

In 1975 Mr. and Mrs. John Reid (Trelissick) of Christchurch, New Zealand, imported three cows and one bull into New Zealand.

1998

The Society

During the 1980's interest in Highland Cattle blossomed. On 7th of May 1988 some 60 people gathered at a public meeting in Melbourne organised by Allister and Davina Stewart to form the Australian Highland Cattle Society. The Society became an incorporated body in 1990 and by 1994 membership numbers had risen to 204 with approximately 2,000 registrations of Highland cattle of various degrees of purity.

2017

Rare Breeds

In 2017, thanks to the efforts of AHCS breeders through history, the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia announced that Highland cattle had been removed from its At Risk Watch List and reclassified as a Recovering Breed. Today, there are over 250 members across Australia and nearly 10,000 animals have been registered in the Herdbook since 1975.

Events

2024 AHCS National Show Information

All you need to know to come along to the 2024 AHCS National Show

News

AHCS National Show Sponsorship

Become a Sponsor of the 2024 National Show

Resources

AHCS DNA Guidelines

Guidelines for mandatory parent verification for registration

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