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A Brief Exploration of Highland Coos in Edinburgh History

5th Apr 2021
A Brief Exploration of Highland Coos in Edinburgh History

Mercat Tours Storyteller Stefanie introduces us to her hairy four-legged neighbours in Mortonhall.

One great thing about living in Edinburgh is that we have nature right on our doorstep. I’d like you to meet my neighbours, the hairy coos!

Pub quiz fact of the day: Highland cattle are the world’s oldest cattle breed with an official register, since 1885, and even though the register is called “herd book”, a group of Highland cows is known as a fold, after the stone shelters they were kept in.

Why are they so hairy, you ask? If you’ve ever been on an outdoor holiday in their homeland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands, you’ll agree that it makes a lot of sense to have a thick woolly coat to protect you from the elements. However, this hardy breed was mainly kept for milk and meat, not so much for wool, because their hair is very coarse and hard to spin.

highland coos in edinburgh scotland

In the past, the island variety (slightly smaller and with black coats) was more widespread than the brown mainland variety, but legend has it that Queen Victoria liked the look of the brown ones better, so they were bred in greater numbers. Whether or not that is true, they certainly have the royal seal of approval nowadays – since 1954, Highland cattle have been kept at the Balmoral estate, one of the Queen’s Scottish residences.

There is no doubt that these friendly creatures, with their impressive horns and fetching haircuts, are an iconic part of Scotland’s image, and they are becoming more and more popular all over the world.

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