Many people have concerns over how these shaggy animals cope during summer. The same question could be asked of how other breeds that do not have shaggy coats cope during winter?

The simple answer is that Highlands shed the majority of their coat in summer, and grow it back for the next winter. Other breeds' coats thicken up through winter as well, only to be shed for the warmer months.  The following photos are of one of our bulls in winter coat versus a summer coat.

Luachy at a winter show. Luachy in mid-summer.
20 month old bull with a winter coat. Same bull 6 months later in summer.

So, how do Highlands cope? The answer lies in two parts. Firstly there are two layers to the coat - the undercoat which is the dense shorter hair and the longer guard hairs. Together the two layers trap air during winter, a bit like a jacket on us or a double glassed window. This trapped air is warmed by their body and then keeps them warm. In quite a natural process, as more warmer days arrive, these two coats start shed (eventually all of the undercoat, and most of the guard hairs). Often Highlands will appear to have large matts of fur stuck to them as this shedding process takes place. We sometimes comb these out for the animal, which gives them great pleasure, or they can be left to fall out or be rubbed off on a tree stump or post without any consequences.

The second part to the answer is that genetically some animals have more hair than others. So some Highland cattle will end up with more coat in winter, and so stay warmer. These animals will shed most of their coat but still be left with slightly more hair than other Highlands through summer as well.

So yes it is important to have shade during warmer times for all cattle, but especially Highlands. Conversely, shelter and protection from the cold is important in winter, especially for shorter coated breeds. Next time you get to see Highlands and another breed in the same paddock on a cold day, have a closer look. The Highlands will be grazing and the other breed will be huddled in the corner shivering.