The Ultimate Guide to Mini Highland Cows! [Size, Feed, and Cost!]

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Mini Highland cows are some of our favorite homestead companions! When most people think of Highland cows, they think of the unkempt (and beastly) creatures often used as tourist attractions or featured in commercials. However, we know about a newer and smaller version of this Scottish cow gaining popularity – miniature Highland cattle!

As their name suggests, miniature Highland cows are much smaller than their traditional counterparts. And they make great pets or farmyard animals for small-scale homesteaders. 

We’re about to analyze these magnificently mini cattle creatures in detail!

Sound good?

Let’s continue!

The Ultimate Guide to the Mini Highland Cow

If you’re considering adding a mini Highland cow to your farm or homestead, read on for everything you need to know about this exquisite mixed breed of cattle.

adorable mini highland cows foraging on california farm
Mini Highland cows come from the hardy Scottish Highland cattle breed. Highland cattle is one of the oldest – if not the oldest cattle breed around. The first Highland cattle herd dates way back to 1884! Highland cattle get favored among rural ranchers due to their reputations for being adaptable, rugged, and easy to raise.

Do Mini Highland Cows Exist? Or Not?!

Many homesteaders and farmers swear that miniature Highland cattle don’t exist. We’d go as far as to say there’s a profusion of confusion regarding Highland cattle and the nature of miniature cow breeds.

Yes, for the record, we believe that mini Highland cows exist! And – we’ve spent the last few months researching the validity of miniature Highland cattle.

Here’s what we found.

According to a Miniature Cattle Faculty Report published via the University of Nebraska Lincoln Digital Commons, miniature Highlands exist within the official International Miniature Cattle Breeders Society and Registry (AKA IMCBSR, founded in 1989.)

We didn’t just take their word for it. We checked the Mini Cattle Database ourselves. We found that the IMCBSR website lists many reputable Highland breeders – including reviews, their websites, and social media contact information.

(Some breeders sell full-sized Highlands, and others cater to mixed miniature varieties.)

We discovered many real-world (and healthy) instances of mini Highland cattle! (And each specimen appears more adorable than the last.)

We found reputable Highland breeders in other locations, too. There are a small handful of micro and miniature breeders within the official Highland Cattle Association Highland Breeder Directory.

After additional research, it looks like many independent ranchers are also breeding and selling miniature Highland cattle. As of 2023 – they’re everywhere.

Here are a few of the most well-documented miniature Highland breeders we could find after researching.

The list above is just scratching the surface. It seems like the popularity of miniature Highland cows is skyrocketing.

We expect more mini cow breeders to continue the trend.

Storey's Guide to Raising Miniature Livestock | Sue Weaver

If you're new to mini Highland cows and other mini farm animals - here's one of our favorite resources from Storey and Sue Weaver. It's Storey's Guide to Raising Mini Livestock! The book covers more than just tiny cows. It also talks about miniature goats, donkeys, pigs, sheep, llamas, and horses.

If you have a small homestead and want the advantages of miniature cattle without having dozens of acres, then it's an excellent resource. The book contains 465 pages! Some reviewers cite how the book isn't advanced enough for their taste. So - the book is best if you're new to miniature farm animals.

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04/14/2024 03:20 am GMT

Are Mini Highland Cows Good for Anything? 

Yes. Absolutely! The full-bred Highland cow is a friendly and docile cattle from the Scottish Highlands. Since Scottish Highland cows are insanely adorable and tremendously hardy, many homesteaders now seek miniature versions – miniature Highlands.

These cows are smaller than their full-grown counterparts, making them easier to care for and handle.

Mini Highland cows are also known for their thick fur coats, which protect them from the cold weather in their native homeland. In recent years, mini Highland cows have become increasingly popular as pets and farmyard companions due to their easygoing nature and gentle dispositions.

How Big Do Mini Highland Cows Get?

Miniature Highland cattle typically weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds – or 227 to 453 kg. They are also relatively short, with a typical adult height of 36 to 42 inches (91 to 107 cm). The bulls are generally slightly larger than the cows.

Although they are much smaller than their full-size cousins, miniature Highland cattle still possess many similarly distinctive features, including long curved horns, shaggy coats, and wavy eyelashes. Miniature Highland cows make excellent pets – due partly to their docile nature and compact size.

How Much Do Highland Cattle Weigh Compared to Mini Highland Cattle?

Here’s what you can expect your adult, full-bred Highland cattle to weigh.

  • Full-sized adult (male) Highland bulls can weigh around 1,800 pounds.
  • Full-sized adult (female) Highland cows can weigh approximately 1,000 pounds.

We also read a fascinating report from the Highland Association that says the average Highland birth weight is approximately sixty-five to seventy pounds.

But what about miniature Highland cattle?

Since various mixed miniature cows can weigh anywhere from one-half to one-third of their full-sized counterparts, you can expect a mini Highland cow to weigh anywhere from 400 to 1,000 pounds depending on sex, size, and genetics.

miniature highland cow foraging in carmel california
Here’s a beautiful Highland cow specimen! Here you see the cow browsing in a field. Highland cows come from the rugged Scottish Highlands. They’re famous for getting by without the best grazing conditions. As a result – they’re excellent foragers! They have reputations for eating other forage crops that most other cows overlook. And we love their woolly coats!

What’s the Difference Between Mini Highland Cattle and Full Bred Highland Cattle?

There is so much confusion regarding Highland cattle!

There are two Highland cow nuances all homesteaders should know. They are as follows.

  • Highland cows are medium-sized cows from Scotland. They’re one of the oldest-known cattle breeds. They’re famous for being expert foragers and surviving in all weather – especially the snow. And they have horns, plus adorable shaggy hair.
  • Miniature Highland cows usually refer to Highland cows mixed with smaller cow breeds to create a much tinier version of the full-sized Highland cow.

Full-bred Highland cattle are tremendously shaggy-haired and adorable – especially the calves. The calves look unlike many other cows – they look like Ewoks!

To add to the confusion – many farmers and cow ranchers love to raise and market mixed Highland cattle and invent even smaller Highland varieties!

For example – we’ve seen Highland cows mixed with the following:

  • Dexter cows
  • British White cows
  • Hereford cows
  • Panda cows

For that reason – many adorable miniature Highland mixes exist, and each has varying height, weight, and size. (And we agree that it’s confusing!)

Are Miniature Highland Cows Friendly?

Yes. Absolutely! If you’re looking for a friendly pet, you might consider a miniature Highland cow. These cows are known for their sweet dispositions and love of being around people. And they look like giant teddy bears. Ultra fuzzy teddy bears!

They are markedly curious creatures, so they’ll often follow you around and try to investigate anything that catches their eye. Highland cows are also relatively easy to care for and raise. They even make excellent lawnmowers! Many people get mini cows specifically for this purpose.

Read More!

How Much Does a Mini Highland Cow Eat Per Day?

Cows usually eat around 2% of their body weight daily. A full-grown miniature Highland cow weighs approximately 500 to 1,000 pounds. So – expect your mini Highland cow to eat roughly 10 to 20 pounds of hay daily. (500 pounds * .02 = 10 pounds.) or (1,000 pounds * .02 = 20 pounds.)

This number is just an estimate! Your mini Highland cow could certainly eat more than 10 pounds per day. But we’d be surprised if the total amount exceeded 30 pounds of hay daily.

This amount may seem like a lot for such a little fellow! But it’s far less than what many other types of cattle consume. For example, Angus cattle can eat up to 35 pounds of hay daily. And we’ve heard of some hungry Holstein cows eating as much as 50 pounds of hay!

Of course, the amount a miniature Highland cow eats will also depend on factors such as age, weight, and activity level. Younger cows tend to eat more than older cows, and cows used for breeding or milking need more food than those kept as pets.

cute highland cows on farm in anderen netherlands
Highland cattle originate from Scotland. But – they’re popular in different parts of the world, including Australia, Europe, the USA, and beyond. See this adorable Highland cow from Anderen, Netherlands, as an example. It looks like the tiny pack was grazing on farmland. But – the photographer caught their attention. For a few moments, at least! (You can’t keep a Highland cow from their lunch for long.)

How Much Land Does a Mini Highland Cow Need?

A mini Highland cow can live comfortably on as little as one acre of pasture. Most reliable cattle-raising sources agree that you require two acres of forage space per cow. But mini Highland cows are half the size of regular cattle. Sometimes, even smaller! 

So – one acre per mini Highland cow should be sufficient – as long as you have decent forage crops. (We also advise supplementing your mini Highland cattle’s diet during the winter!)

Highlands are known for their hardiness and ability to thrive in challenging conditions. They’re also relatively low-maintenance, making them a good choice for homesteaders seeking to raise livestock while minimizing fuss. (Of course – raising cows is always a challenge. But Highland cows are famously less fussy than others.)

mini scottish highland cows wrestling with horns
These two Highland cattle from Carmel-by-the-Sea are temporarily locking horns! But not to worry. The Highland cows aren’t fighting – but merely roughhousing. They have reputations as docile and friendly creatures. You’re more likely to see a mini Highland using its horns to clear forage than brawl with its herd mates. You’ll probably find that mini Highland cows get along without fuss.

Can Mini Highland Cows Live Alone?

Mini Highland cows are social creatures that enjoy the company of other miniature bovines! When they get kept alone, they can become stressed and even depressed. Isolating mini Highland cows can also lead to health problems such as poor appetite and weight loss. 

Therefore, mini Highland cows should always have at least one other mini Highland cow for companionship. While they can get along with other animals, such as sheep or goats, mini Highland cows do best when they are with a herd.

Read More – How Long Do Cows Live? Beef and Dairy 101!

How Fast Do Highland Cows Grow?

We’ve noticed that Highland cows are slow-growing. Their slow growth means they take longer to reach full size than other breeds. However, once reaching adulthood, they are larger than most other cattle breeds. 

Adult Highland cows (not the miniature versions) typically weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds. The average bull can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. While the exact growth rate varies depending on the individual cow, most Highland cows will reach full size by four or five years old.

After that point, they will continue to put on weight until they reach their peak at around seven or eight years old. Thanks to their slow growth rate and hearty appetites, Highland cows have a reputation for being very efficient grazers.

adorable miniature highland calf resting on straw
Here’s another reason we love all Highland cattle – and Highland mixes. They’re so cute! Look at this adorable Highland calf! It’s resting atop a thick layer of straw in a cozy rural barn. I think it’s hungry! Or maybe, it’s waiting to join the herd and browse for some yummy forage crops! (We haven’t seen a farm animal this cute since we wrote about the best sheep with black faces.)

What Age Do Highland Cows Grow Horns?

While male and female Highland cows have horns, their horn buds don’t start maturing until they reach adulthood. Most Highland cows don’t start growing their horns until they’re between one and two years old. 

Once their horns start to grow, they’ll continue to grow throughout the cow’s life – typically reaching full size after about five years. Highland cows can live to be 15 or even 20 years old! That means their horns can keep growing for a significant portion of their lives.

shaggy and cute miniature highland calves on straw
Here’s another adorable Highland calf! We think it just woke up for a nap. Now it wants breakfast! Luckily – Highland cattle aren’t fussy eaters. But – what do cows eat? Well – Highland minis aren’t like other cows. They love munching on a wide variety of forage crops other than grass. (We also think this Highland mini calf resembles an Ewok!)

How Long Does a Mini Highland Cow Live?

In general, miniature Highland cattle have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. However, some mini Highland cows purportedly live up to 20 years, while others may only live for ten years or less. Factors that affect a miniature Highland cow’s lifespan include diet, genetics, and environment.

For example, cows that are well-fed and living in a clean and spacious environment are likely to live longer than those that are neglected or living in cramped conditions.

(Since many Highland mixes exist – it’s impossible to say how long yours will live. Ask your breeder for a better idea of what to expect.)

Read More – How Fast Can Cows Run? The Answer Might Surprise You!

Where Can I Find a Reputable Highland Breeder In the USA?

There are two places to check. 

First, visit the IMCBSR Highland Breeder’s Database. Their website neatly lists a variety of Highland breeders and their contact information. You can also find other miniature cow breeds in their breed database. They list lovely miniature breeds like High Park, Panda, Mini Belts, Mini Cookies, and more.

You can also find a few miniature cattle breeders on the Highland Cattle Association website and their Highland Breeder Directory. However, we had better luck searching the IMCBSR, as they have far more listed breeders.

How Much Do Mini Highland Cows Cost?

The price of miniature Highland cows varies. Big time! Expect to pay anywhere from $3,000 to over $20,000 in 2023.

The cost depends on factors such as gender, hair length, color, size, and genetics, as well as the breeder. For example, a calf is typically less expensive than an adult cow. Similarly, a female cow will generally be more expensive than a male cow. 

There’s also a surprisingly high demand for Highland cattle. For that reason – the price may not decrease anytime soon.

Do Miniature Highland Cows Have Bulldog Dwarfism?

Some miniature Highland cattle mixes may be at risk for dwarfism, yes. (AKA Chondrodysplasia, or bulldog dwarfism.)

We read a fascinating document from UC Davis about cow dwarfism and Dexter cows. It suggested that Dexters, Dexter crosses, and miniature Highland cows should get tested for dwarfism.

Overall, their report suggested testing the following breeds for dwarfism:

  • Dexter
  • Dexter crosses
  • Miniature Jersey
  • Miniature Zebu
  • Miniature Scottish Highland

Since bulldog dwarfism is a lethal disease, we advise all homesteaders to source their cattle from reputable breeders who respect their animal’s health, viability, and integrity.

(We think there’s nothing wrong with mixing cow breeds. It’s healthy, organic, and natural. But – cow breeders should do so responsibly, in a way that minimizes the risk of bulldog dwarfism and other lethal anomalies!)

What’s the Difference Between Micro, Miniature, Mid-Size, and Standard Cows?

You may see homesteaders and ranchers using the words miniature and micro cows. But what do these terms mean, exactly?

According to IMCBSR, the miniature cattle sizing chart, and terminology should be as follows.

  • Standard-Size Cattle = Over 48-inches
  • Mid-Size Cattle = 42.25-inches to 48-inches
  • Miniature Cattle = 36.35-inchs to 42-inches
  • Micro Cattle = Under 36-inches

Fascinatingly, and coincidentally, you may find that full-bred Highland cows fall in the miniature or micro cattle category since Wikipedia lists female Highland cow height as anywhere from 35 to 42 inches.

(That’s another reason there is a ton of confusion regarding miniature Highland cows. Even full-bred and full-sized Highland cows are indeed relatively short!) 

Read More – Raising Mini LaMancha Goats!

ultimate guide to mini highland cows
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Miniature Highland cows are becoming increasingly popular on small farms and homesteads across the country. And worldwide! They’re versatile animals that can provide milk, meat, or fiber. And they’re a great way to teach kids about agriculture and animal husbandry. 

But – if you’re interested in adding miniature Highland cattle to your farm, conduct your research first! Make sure you have enough space for them to roam and consider their needs before making a final decision. 

What about you? Have you ever considered raising miniature Highland cattle?

Or – maybe there are other miniature cattle breed you love more than Highlands?

Let us know your thoughts!

And – thanks so much for reading.

Have a great day!

More Highland Cattle References:

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  1. I am soo, soo glad someone addressed the inaccuracies in this piece! I spend hours on the phone trying to help people understand that Highlands in general are shorter than most breeds. Yes, some Highlands have longer legs, some have shorter legs, some have super shaggy coats, others have slightly longer coats, some have curly bangs, others have straight. Shoot, I’ve seen full Highland bulls that I call “slicks” because the only way you know they are Highlands is by the breed standard/confirmation as laid out by the Heartland Highland Cattle Association, and their long bangs. I prefer long shaggy hair, short legs, and long straight or wavy (but not curly) bangs, so that’s what I breed/buy. I’ve searched on the internet for mini or micro Highlands just to see to what people are referring. I have seen only one little bull that I could tell was mature; and, he was so little! Of course, I don’t know if he carries the dwarfing gene. The others I saw were the size of some of mine!
    There is a registry called the International Miniature Cattle Breeders Association (as mentioned). If you search their site you will find VERY expensive Highlands and Highland mixes. They are making a considerable amount more for their Highlands than I am for sure. Maybe I should go by their standard and charge twice to three times as much for my cattle. The other Highland registry is the American Highland Cattle Association. They do not register according to a breed standard, but, by the previous registration of the sire’s and dam’s previous generations. Neither of the Highland Cattle Associations recognize a “mini” or “micro” version. Not that it means anything, but I’m a member of both (under Freedom Hills Ranch in Kentucky).
    Oh, just FYI, a group of Highlands is referred to as a fold, not a herd (sorry, if I missed that in the article). Mixing breeds is fine! I have seen some mixes that are so flipping cute they almost made me want to mix mine! And, it’s ok, if the Highlands or mixes you purchase are not registered. I’d say that most breeders and buyers don’t care. If you want accurate information (for sure), on Highland cattle, look up AHCA and HHCA. Please don’t pay an incredibly high price just because of someone’s brilliant marketing; unless of course, you want to reward that and can afford it! That said, hats off to the Highland breeders who are getting $8 -20,000 per cow!
    Be blessed – better yet – Be the blessing!

  2. As a breeder of Highland cattle, I can say that virtually none of this article is accurate.

    For one, there is no such thing as a “miniature” Highland. They are a traditionally short breed. Shorter ones fetch a higher price right now due to them being cuter and more acceptable as homestead pets. As a result, some breeders have begun selectively breeding their shorter cows. This does not create a new breed and there is no difference between a “miniature” Highland and a “Standard” Highland. That’s like calling all humans under five foot six “miniature” Humans.

    A Highland cow is also at it’s most expensive at about six months of age, the opposite of what this article states. As they get older their price goes down, as they are in nearly as high demand. Prices right now (2022) for real purebred Highlands range from $2,000 to $12,000, not $1,000 to $4,000. At the prices stated in this article, you are buying a half-breed at best.

    Your weights and heights are way off. An adult cow that weighs only 500lbs is sick.

    The only way you could consistently be breeding Highland cows at 36 inches in adult height is if you are cross breeding Dexters into the bloodline in order to specifically breed for the Chondrodysplasia genetic disease (the dwarf/bulldog gene), which is generally considered cruel and unethical by most breeders. It is extremely rare for an adult Highland to be under 40 inches.

    Nobody uses Highlands for milk. They are not big milk producers and need all of their milk for their babies. They do not produce any usable excess.

    Also, their horns start growing far before 1-2 years. I have a seven month old heifer calf with 6-8in horns in my pasture right now.

    Not even all of the pictures in this article are of Highlands… The black&white one is called a High Park and is at most only 1/2 Highland. No Highland is born with more than one color, outside of very rare occasions where they end up with an extra splash of color somewhere.

    Articles like this are why breeders have such a hard time dealing with the general public, because their expectations are so completely detached from reality. Every time I have a calf available I get 200 messages from people, 99.9% of which think that they cost $1000-$2000 at most. Ironically, the amount of time I have to spend dealing with the uninformed people is a big part of the price.

    Last time I sold a calf I estimated that I spent 100+ hours of work just dealing with people who thought they wanted a Highland but almost everything they thought they knew about the breed was completely false. Much of the information is actually dangerous, such as the bad info around their normal heights. This has created a surge of demand for “miniature” Highlands which has resulted in hundreds of unethical breeders mixing Dexter genes into their herd, giving their babies an incurable genetic disease, then selling the babies as Highlands while they are young and adorable. Those babies will be fine for a year or two then will suffer from a host of health problems for the rest of their life.

    1. Hi Highland Breeder!
      We appreciate you stopping by and providing us (and our readers!) with the additional, very detailed information.
      Anything that helps people make an informed purchased decision is excellent! We will address some of the issues you raised in the article – stay tuned!
      Thanks for your comment!

    2. @Highland Breeder, Thank you for your info. That being said, what resources do you recommend that will truly be helpful if I’m wanting to raise mini or small cattle, preferably highlands. Thank you, Twanna

    3. @Highland Breeder, my husband and I are concentrating getting a mini or micro highland. We have kids and I would like all the information you can get me on them if possible. I know some but I would like insider Information please.

      Thank you.

    4. @Highland Breeder, Will you please send me you contact information and address. We are interested in purchasing Highland cattle. We live on our small family farm in Pennsylvania. Thanks, Jim

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