Highlands come in various colours, which adds some interest when breeding. Although a good animal has nothing to do with the colour of the hair, different breeders still have preferences for certain colours. There are six colours that can be registered in the Herd Book of the Australian Highland Cattle Society. There are however a number of shades of these colours that can vary with hair coat length and so time of year, and the genetic make-up of the animal.

Colours that can be Registered in Australia

The classic red colour. Black can often have some red on their dossal or mane.
Yellow is a red animal with one dilution gene. A dun cow - a black animal with one dilution gene.
White is a red animal with two dilution genes. Dark brindle animal - a red animal with the brindle gene.

Additional Colours that are known to exist in the breed & are genetically separate (but not recognised by the Australian Society);
Mahogany bull, with white tips.  Silver dun cow. 

Coat Colour Links, Photos & Articles

Variations of these colours:
This article discusses a number of variations of these colours and different shades. Whatever colour they are, they all need to be categorised under the above six groups to be registered in the Australian Highland Cattle Society Herdbook however.

Anomalies in Highland Coat Colour:
This page covers some of the more unusual coat colour patterns that are not fully accounted for in the colours allowed in the herdbook. Some of these are accepted and others are not. Either way they are interesting and many breeders ask of them.

Calf Colours:
Just when you thought you had a fair understanding of Highland coat colours, you also need to realise that a number of calves are born different shades or sometimes quite different colours to what they end up being as adults. (see also 'Mahogany Coat Colour Changes' and 'Black Coat Colour Changes')

History of Highland Colour Preferences:
This is a brief discussion of how this has changes over the years. We have bred out, and bred in, certain coat colours in Highlands, because of perceived benefits to certain colours and sometimes just because of fads. For example, around 200 years ago by far the most common colour was black, but this is actually a rare colour amongst Highlands today. Now red is by far the most common and recognised colour.

The Genetics of Coat Colour in Highland Cattle:
In recent years some specific research has become become available to us to help us understand some of the reasons for the colours that crop up when we cross certain animals together. There is actually some predictability to what seems like random events of colour combinations. In fact, every cross would be totally predictable, if only we knew all of these genes that control coat colour in Highlands. This is far too complex at the moment but we certainly understand a lot more now than we did.


1) Cattle Coat Colour Genetics (in depth discussion of genetics involved here.) Sheila Schmutz, University of Saskatchewan, Canada.
The current state of what has been proven by DNA analysis. (