HIGHLAND COOS: BEYOND THE POSTCARDS OF THE SCOTTISH HIGHLAND
In the midst of Scotland‘s enchanting landscapes, there exists a world that beckons with its captivating charm and allure. Step into the realm of Highland Coos, where ancient traditions and natural beauty intertwine to create a truly enchanting experience.
If you are wondering what makes the Highland Coos special or why Scotland’s Highland Cows are so popular, you’ll find the answers here. This article takes you through a journey of discovery, peels back the layers and unveils the secrets of the Highland Coos. From their majestic long horns that curve like works of art to their thick, shaggy coats that defy the elements, these gentle giants hold a spellbinding presence. More enchanting, is their connection to the land, their resilience amidst the rugged terrain, that truly sets them apart.
I had an incredible experience of seeing the wild and wonderful Highland Coos during my visits to Scotland whilst exploring the North Coast 500 route, the Isle of Skye and Inverness. The Highland Coos are truly majestic and aptly known as the gentle giants of the Scottish Highland.
In this article, I will share my experiences and the places to see the highland cows. I will take you through into the enchanting world of Highland Coos, unraveling their cultural significance, and exploring their untold stories. You are sure to be swept away by the magic and wonder that awaits within the extraordinary surroundings of the Highland Coos in Scotland when you visit this corner of the United Kingdom.
Go here to one of my Instagram posts about the gentle giants of the Highlands.
Here is an overview of what is covered in this article:
- The enchantment of the Scottish Highland;
- What makes the Highland Coos, special?;
- Highland Coos and Scottish Folklore;
- The history and origin of Highland Coos;
- The various names attributed to Highland Coos;
- The unique characteristics of Highland Coos;
- The untold stories of Highland Coos;
- Where to see the Highland Coos;
- Where to see the Coos near Inverness;
- How to see the Highland Coos;
- My experience with the Highland Coos;
- What’s new on the blog;
THE ENCHANTMENT OF THE SCOTTISH HIGHLAND
The Scottish Highlands offer a world of enchantment and intrigue, where a captivating journey awaits those who are drawn to its rugged and untamed beauty. The landscape itself is a source of fascination, with its dramatic mountains, cascading waterfalls, and vast expanses of heather-clad moorland. These breathtaking vistas set the stage for a truly immersive experience, where one can’t help but be captivated by the sheer grandeur of the surroundings.
Cultural Heritage, Captivating Landscapes and the Mystique of Highland Coos
One of the specific ways in which the Scottish Highlands offer enchantment is through its wildlife, including the Highland Coos. These iconic creatures roam freely amidst the stunning backdrop, their shaggy coats and majestic horns evoking a sense of wonder. Encountering a Highland Coo up close, with its gentle and docile demeanour, is truly an alluring experience that connects us to the wild and untamed spirit of the region.
Moreover, the rich cultural heritage and history of the Scottish Highlands contribute to its allure. Ancient castles stand as silent witnesses to a bygone era, their imposing presence sparking imaginations and kindling a sense of wonder. The tales of clans, battles, and folklore that echo through the glens add depth and intrigue to the journey, transporting visitors to a different time and place.
Scotland’s Captivating Landscape
The mystical landscapes of places like the Isle of Skye, where towering rock formations, ethereal waterfalls, and hidden fairy pools beckon the curious traveller. The remote and haunting beauty of Glen Coe, with its history steeped in tragedy and resilience, creates an atmospheric experience that lingers long after one has left.
In the Scottish Highlands, enchantment can be found in the simple act of strolling through a tranquil glen or standing on a windswept peak, witnessing the interplay of light and shadow across the ever-changing landscape. It is in these moments, when the raw and untamed beauty of nature converges with the rich tapestry of history and culture, that the Scottish Highlands truly offer a sphere of intrigue, where a captivating journey awaits those who seek to uncover the mystique of Highland Coos.
WHAT MAKES THE HIGHLAND COOS SPECIAL?
The endearing Highland Coos, more popularly known as Highland Cows, and passionately simply as “Coos”, possess a special allure that sets them apart from other bovine breeds. Their distinct physical features, such as their majestic long horns and shaggy, weather-resistant coats, immediately capture attention. In addition, what truly makes Highland cows special extends beyond their striking appearance.
Highland Coos: The Gentle Giants of the Scottish Highland
The Highland Coos, are often referred to as the “gentle giants of the Scottish Highland” and are living symbols of resilience. With their majestic presence and untamed allure, they have a profound connection to the rugged landscapes they call home. Their ability to adapt and thrive in the harsh terrain of the Highlands is a testament to their innate strength. They embody a deep bond to the land, grazing on heather-covered hillsides and wandering through mist-laden glens.
With their calm demeanour and gentle nature, Highland Coos create an enchanting atmosphere wherever they roam, inviting us to embrace a sense of tranquility and reconnect with the untamed beauty of nature.
Highland Coos and Scottish Culture
However, there is more to Highland Coos than their physical beauty. Steeped in ancient folklore and deeply embedded in Scottish culture, they exude an air of mystique that captivates the imagination. Unraveling their rich tapestry of myths and legends, are tales of their symbolic significance, often associated with wisdom, protection, and a profound connection to nature. Observing their tranquil grace and gentle demeanor while they navigate their surroundings with an effortless elegance, is a welcoming sight to behold.
Their cultural significance and storied history further elevate their allure, making Highland Coos a cherished and iconic part of Scotland’s heritage.
HIGHLAND COOS AND SCOTTISH FOLKLORE
Myths, legends, and tales have woven a rich tapestry of symbolic significance around Highland Coos in Scottish folklore. Here are some specific examples:
The Fairy Cows of Isle of Skye
In the Isle of Skye, there is a tale of the Fairy Cows. This fascinating legend about the Fairy Cows of the Isle of Skye tells of a mystical herd of Highland Coos associated with faeries.
According to the tale, these cows were bestowed with magical powers by the faeries that inhabit the island. They are said to possess an otherworldly beauty and radiate an aura of enchantment. Encounters with the Fairy Cows are considered rare and often serendipitous. Spotting them is believed to bring good fortune, prosperity, and blessings to those fortunate enough to witness their presence. The Fairy Cows are said to bring a sense of magic and wonder to the landscape of the Isle of Skye, further enhancing its reputation as a place of extraordinary beauty.
While the specific details of the legend may vary, the overall theme of the Fairy Cows of Isle of Skye conveys a sense of the mystical and the belief in a hidden dimension of magic intertwined with the natural world. This legend adds an element of enchantment to the already captivating allure of Highland Coos. It infuses them with an ethereal quality that sparks the imagination and captures the hearts of those who hear the tale.
The White Coos of Loch Awe
The White Coos of Loch Awe is a captivating legend associated with a mythical herd of Highland Coos that roam the area around Loch Awe in Scotland.
According to the legend, these ethereal creatures are said to be pure white in color, standing out against the picturesque landscape. The White Coos are believed to possess magical qualities and are often associated with mystical creatures like unicorns. Their appearance is seen as a symbol of purity, grace, and enchantment. Spotting these rare and elusive creatures is considered a special occurrence, believed to bring good luck, protection, and a connection to the domain of magic.
The legend of the White Coos of Loch Awe adds an element of wonder and mysticism to the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands. It sparks the imagination and creates a sense of awe, as people imagine the ethereal presence of these magnificent creatures roaming the shores of Loch Awe.
The legend enriches the folklore and mythology surrounding Highland Coos, making them an even more intriguing part of Scotland’s cultural heritage.
The Coos as Sacred Beasts
The Highland Coos as sacred beasts is not tied to a specific legend but rather to their cultural and symbolic significance in Scottish heritage. Highland Coos hold a special place in the hearts of Scots and are regarded with reverence and respect. These majestic creatures are often seen as representatives of the harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world.
They are considered sacred in the sense that they embody the spirit of the Scottish Highlands, their resilience, and their deep connection to the land. As symbols of strength, wisdom, and adaptability, Highland Coos evoke a sense of the sacred in the landscape they inhabit. Highland Coos are seen as guardians of the land, preserving the delicate balance of the environment and contributing to the overall health and diversity of the ecosystems they graze upon.
While there may not be a specific legend associated with Highland Coos as sacred beasts, their symbolic significance transcends folklore and mythology, symbolizing the deep-rooted connection between the Scottish people and the natural world they cherish.
In sum, these examples showcase the symbolic significance of Highland Coos in Scottish mythology, where they are associated with protection, fortune, magic, and the interplay between the human and supernatural realms. These stories contribute to the enchantment and mystique that surround these remarkable creatures in the Scottish Highlands.
THE HISTORY AND ORIGIN OF HIGHLAND COOS
The history of Highland Coos traces back several centuries. Their exact origin is not known but is believed to be ancient, per-historic. While the precise timeline is unclear, these remarkable creatures have been an integral part of the Scottish Highlands for centuries, deeply intertwined with the rugged landscapes and traditional farming practices of the Scottish Highlands. These iconic cattle have a rich heritage that is believed to have originated in the region.
Highland Coos, also known simply as “Coos” in Scotland, are one of the descendants of the ancient Celtic cattle. Celtic cattle, which inhabited the rugged terrain of Scotland dating back to prehistoric times. These early cattle breeds were well-adapted to the challenging conditions of the Highland region, characterised by harsh winters, sparse vegetation, and rough landscapes.
Over time, selective breeding and natural adaptation led to the development of what is now known as the Highland Coos. Their unique physical characteristics, such as the long shaggy coats and impressive horns, evolved as adaptations to survive the demanding Highland environment.
Historically, Highland Coos played a vital role in the Scottish Highland economy. They were primarily used as working animals, prized for their strength, endurance, and ability to graze on rough pastures. They were also a source of milk, meat, and hides for the local communities.
Today, Highland Coos have gained immense popularity worldwide, not only for their practicality but also for their undeniable charm and visual appeal. They have become iconic symbols of Scotland, representing the resilience, beauty, and untamed spirit of the Scottish Highlands.
Therefore, while the exact origins of the Highland Coos are not well-documented, and may be shrouded in the mists of time, their enduring presence and historical significance make them an integral part of Scotland’s cultural and natural heritage.
THE VARIOUS NAMES OF HIGHLAND COOS
Highland Coos are known by several names due to regional variations and colloquial terms. Here are some of the different names used to refer to Highland Coos:
Highland Cattle: This is the most common and widely recognised name for the breed. It is the general term used to describe Highland Coos worldwide.
Heilan Coo: “Heilan” is the Scottish Gaelic term for “Highland,” and “Coo” is the Scottish term for “cow.” It is a popular colloquial name used in Scotland to refer to Highland Coos.
Hairy Coo: This name refers to the breed’s distinctively long and thick hair. The shaggy appearance of Highland Coos often leads to them being called “Hairy Coos.”
Kyloe: “Kyloe” is an older term derived from the Scottish Gaelic “caol” meaning “narrow.” Historically, it referred to cattle that were grazed on the narrow coastal strips of the Scottish Highlands.
Long-haired Cattle: This name describes the breed’s characteristic long hair, which provides insulation and protection against harsh weather conditions.
Scottish Highland Cattle: This name is commonly used internationally to denote the breed’s origin and distinguish it from other cattle breeds.
These are some of the various names used to refer to Highland Coos, reflecting the breed’s regional, linguistic, and descriptive characteristics.
THE UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS OF HIGHLAND COOS
Highland Coos possess several unique characteristics that set them apart from other cattle breeds. Here are some of the unique features which you may be interested to know:
The Highland Coos’ Impressive Horns
One of the most distinctive features of Highland Coos is their impressive horns. Both males and females have long, curved horns that can span a significant width. The horns are often symmetrical and can add to the overall majestic appearance of the animals.
While both male and female Highland Coos have horns, the size and shape can help determine the gender. Typically, male Coos have larger and more prominent horns compared to females. The horns of males tend to grow outward and slightly forward, while females’ horns are generally shorter and more upright.
Highland Coos have Long, Thick Hair
Highland Coos are known for their long, thick hair, which provides insulation and protection from the harsh Highland climate.
The hair consists of two layers. A dense, soft undercoat and a coarser, outer layer. The outer coat may reach a length of 33 cm (13 inches) and are naturally well oiled. This double coat helps to keep the Coos warm during cold winters and sheds rain water and snow. This allows them to withstand the rain-soaked landscapes and the harshness of snow.
The Coos Fringe or “Dossan”
Highland Coos have a distinctive fringe of hair that covers their eyes, commonly referred to as a “dossan.” This fringe serves a practical purpose, shielding their eyes from wind, rain, and insects while allowing them to maintain visibility.
The dossan adds to the Coos’ characteristic appearance and gives them an endearing, slightly mysterious look.
An Innate Ability to Adapt to Rough Terrain
Highland Coos have evolved to thrive in the challenging landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. Their strong, muscular build and sturdy legs enable them to navigate rough terrains, steep slopes, and uneven ground with relative ease. Their surefootedness makes them well-suited to graze on hillsides and graze on vegetation that may be inaccessible to other breeds.
The unique characteristics of the Coos, including their impressive horns, long thick hair, distinctive fringe, and adaptability to rugged terrains, contribute to their remarkable charm and appeal of Highland Coos. They have become iconic symbols of the Scottish Highlands. They are celebrated for their resilience and their ability to thrive in demanding environments.
THE UNTOLD STORIES OF HIGHLAND COOS
The untold stories of Highland Coos delve into the lesser-known aspects of their existence, shedding light on their significance and experiences beyond the postcard portrayals. These stories reveal the depth of their connection with the Scottish Highlands and their unique place in local culture and history. Here are a few examples of the untold stories of Highland Coos:
The Coos are Guardians of the Glen
Highland Coos have long served as guardians of the glens, silently witnessing the ebb and flow of time. They have witnessed the changing seasons, the passage of generations, and the resilience of nature. Their presence symbolises the harmonious coexistence between humans and the untamed wilderness.
Highland Coos are Conservation Heroes
The Highland Coos highlight their role as conservation heroes. Through their grazing habits, they help maintain the biodiversity and delicate ecosystem of the Scottish Highlands. Their foraging habits play a vital part in shaping the landscape. It contributes to the preservation of native plant species and promoting habitat diversity.
Highland Coos are deeply ingrained in Scottish culture and folklore. There are traditions, rituals, and festivities associated with these majestic creatures. From Highland games to local celebrations, they are an integral part of Scottish heritage.
Highland Coos reveal the unexpected bonds forged between these gentle giants and the people who care for them. Through their docile nature and gentle demeanor, they have become companions and sources of solace, providing emotional support and therapy to individuals across various contexts.
While Highland Coos hold a significant place in Scottish culture, their population and conservation face ongoing challenges. The Scottish government has initiatives such as “Conservation Grazing” dedicated to safeguarding their future. This ensures, in a small way the preservation of this iconic breed and their natural habitat.
These aspects of Highland Coos offer a glimpse into their multifaceted existence, emphasising their ecological, cultural, and emotional significance. They expand our understanding of these remarkable creatures. An invite to appreciate their untold contributions and the enchanting narratives that unfold in the world of Highland Coos.
WHERE TO SEE THE HIGHLAND COOS
You can see the Highland Coos in various locations throughout Scotland. Here are a few places where you can often see Highland Coos:
The best place to see Highland Coos is especially in their native Scottish Highlands. Explore regions such as the Isle of Skye, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Cairngorms National Park, and Glencoe.
Highland Coos can often be spotted grazing in fields, meandering along country roads, or even in designated Highland cattle farms.
Farms and Estates
Many farms and estates across Scotland raise Highland Coos. These farms offer opportunities to see and learn about the Highland’s magnificent creatures up close. Some establishments even allow visitors to interact with the cattle and participate in feeding or grooming sessions.
Highland Shows and Events
Various agricultural shows such as the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh or local Highland Games, often feature Highland Coos as part of their exhibitions. These events provide a chance to see Highland Coos in a lively and festive atmosphere.
Wildlife Reserves and Conservation Areas
Some wildlife reserves or conservation areas in Scotland, like the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig or the Scottish Deer Centre in Cupar, may have Highland Coos as part of their animal collections. These facilities offer educational opportunities to see and learn about the diverse wildlife of Scotland, including Highland Coos.
Visitor Centres and Tourist Attractions
Certain visitor centres, especially those located in areas known for their Highland Coos population, may have dedicated areas or enclosures where visitors can see and appreciate these animals. Additionally, popular tourist attractions like castles, gardens, or historic sites may have Highland Coos as part of their landscapes.
*Remember to always respect the animals’ space and follow any guidelines or instructions provided by the landowners or authorities. Highland Coos are typically docile creatures, but it’s essential to observe them from a safe distance and avoid any actions that may cause stress or harm.
WHERE TO SEE HIGHLAND COOS NEAR INVERNESS
There are several places near Inverness where you can see the Heilan Coos. Here are some specific places you could go to:
- Culloden Battlefield located at about 15 minutes drive outside of Inverness;
- Dochgarroch Lock. This popular lock is the departure point for some of the Jacobite Cruises and boat trips on Loch Ness. Situated about 8 km (5 miles) from Inverness;
- Cameron’s Tea Room and Farm Shop. This delightful tea room is near Foyers, about 32 km (20 miles) from Inverness;
- Rothiemurchus Estate in the heart of Cairngorms is about 45 minutes drive from Inverness. The estate runs regular Hairy Coo Safaris and Land Rover Experiences.
HOW TO SEE THE HIGHLAND COOS
If you plan on driving in Scotland, you may want to pre-book your car with Discover Cars. If you are not driving but would like to see the Coos, opt for a guided tour. There is a strong possibility that during the tour you might encounter Heilan Coos.
If this is an activity you would like to do, here are some choices you could select from. I, myself have undertaken a couple of these tours during my trips to Scotland.
Multi Day Activities
Edinburgh: 3-day tour of Isle of Skye, and the Highlands including accommodation.
From Glasgow: 3-day tour of the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness and Highlands.
From Edinburgh: 4-day tour of West Scotland, Iona and Mull.
Departing from Edinburgh: 5-day tour of the Outer Hebrides and Highlands.
My Experience with the Highland Coos
As I write this article, I reflect upon my incredible experience exploring the Scottish Highlands and meeting the Highland Coos. I am transported back to the scenic rugged landscapes, the sheer grandeur of nature, and every interaction with the unparalleled magnificence that has left a timeless memory.
Meeting the Coos
Amidst this enchanting scenery, there they were – the Highland Coos, the gentle giants of the Highlands. A fold happily grazing away and appeared to enjoy some attention from us, passersby. I was captivated by their tranquil grace as they roamed freely through hillsides, seemingly at one with the land they called home.
Meeting the Highland Coos was quite an experience. Their long, shaggy coats and majestic horns commanded attention, while their serene and gentle nature invited closer observation.
However, it was the moments of connection that truly took my breath away. Standing face to face with a Highland Coo, I could feel the depth of their presence – a profound connection to the wild, a harmony between humans and nature. It was as if time stood still for a moment. I found myself in awe of their resilience. More importantly, I did not feel fear. I did not feel that I would be attacked by their horns or the like. These majestic creatures knew their territory and were accustomed to attention. The curious gazes, the gentle nuzzles, and even the playful sways of their magnificent horns. The Highland Coos are indeed friendly creatures. Every encounter with a Highland Coo became a cherished memory etched in my mind.
Where did I see the Highland Coos
During my trip along the captivating NC500 Route, I encountered the Highland Coos in the picturesque stretch between Strathcarron and Applecross. The scenic landscapes unfolded before me, and amidst this breathtaking backdrop, I discovered the charm of these majestic creatures. Additionally, my journey led me to a farm in Wick, Caithness, where I immersed myself in a deeper understanding of the Highland Coos’ world.
PLANNING A TRIP TO THE SCOTTISH HIGHLAND?
If you are planning a trip to the Scottish Highland, you may want to stay at the capital of the Highland, Inverness. A beautiful city easily reached by air, train and road. Take a look at my complete guide to the city of Inverness and great places to stay in the city.
When visiting the Scottish Highland, go to Mallaig. A beautiful off-the-beaten path fishing village located on the west coast of Scotland which is sure not to disappoint. Known for its picturesque surroundings and ferry connections to the Isle of Skye, Mallaig is the terminus of the West Highland railway line, which is considered one of the most scenic train journeys in the world. The Jacobite steam train, often known as the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films, operates on this route during the summer months, attracting many Harry Potter fans. Go here to discover the best things to do in the picturesque fishing village of Mallaig and what to expect aboard the Harry Potter train should you wish to do this bucket list experience in Scotland.
From Mallaig, visitors can take a ferry to the Isle of Skye, an enchanting island known for its rugged landscapes, ancient castles, and picturesque villages. The ferry journey provides breathtaking views of the coastline and surrounding islands attracting visitors with its stunning natural beauty and access to the nearby islands. This nook of the Highland is so beautiful that you won’t stop clicking away. Should you need any captions or quotes for social media to accompany your lovely photos, you will find a huge selection of them here about Scotland.
Go here to read more about the Isle of Skye before you go:
The Dreamy Coastal Town of Portree, Isle of Skye: 28 Best Things to do When Visiting Skye’s Favourite City;
The Enchanting Sligachan Bridge on Isle of Skye;
The Unique Collie-Mackenzie Monument at Skye’s Cuillin Mountain;
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article about the Highland Coos.
My sincere wish is that this article about the Highland Coos has offered some insights into the extraordinary world of these majestic creatures.
I have ventured beyond the surface. Shared what I discovered about the untold stories, their cultural significance, and unravel the mystique that surrounds Highland Coos. Through legends, folklore, and the beauty of their unique characteristics, along with the deep connection they have with the Scottish Highlands.
Beyond Scotland’s postcards, the Highland Coos embody resilience and adaptability in the face of challenging landscapes. Coos evoke a sense of wonder, inspiring reverence for the natural world and the intertwining of human and nature. Their allure goes beyond their physical appearance, symbolizing strength, wisdom, and a deep-rooted connection to the land. Whether grazing on hillsides, standing as sentinels of the wild, or enchanting us with their ethereal presence, Highland Coos leave an unforgettable impression. They captivate our imaginations, connecting us to the rich cultural heritage of Scotland. They remind us of the profound beauty that lies beyond the postcards. A visit to the picturesque Scottish Highland offers cherishing memories of the Coos’ tranquil grace and the magical landscapes they call home.
Have a great time seeking out Highland Coos in the Scottish Highland. xx
Are you visiting other destinations in the UK or Europe?
While visiting the Highland, you may want to add a couple of destinations to your itinerary. London makes for a great visit and you can find lots of information and things to do on my London page.
England is famed for its beautiful countryside. If you would like to experience a slice of Englishness, visit the quaint towns of Bibury, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Castle Combe, Burford, Lacock, Battle and Canterbury.
Some destinations in Europe are great for short and long visits. Take a look at my travel page about Verona, Milan, Lake Como and Lake Garda. There is more on this page about Italy if you’d like to take a look. For all travel tips, go to this page on resources about seamless travel.
I also have articles about Amsterdam, Barcelona, Budapest, Montserrat, and Seville, if these are destinations you are planning on visiting.
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