Highlands & Islands

American's passion for Highland cattle

Hamish, front, and Kyloe Image copyright Marc Stewart
Image caption The Stewarts' Highland cattle Hamish, left, and his "little brother" Kyloe

An American farmer has been sharing his passion for Scotland's Highland cattle on social media.

With his wife Kathryn, Marc Stewart looks after two Highlanders at their farm in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.

Videos and photographs of the cattle, called Hamish and Kyloe, posted to social media by Mr Stewart have been viewed thousands of times.

Some of the most popular posts feature red-haired Hamish relaxed as his shaggy coat is combed.

Image copyright Marc Stewart
Image caption Mr Stewart combing Highlander Hamish

Mr Stewart's interest in the breed began with a fascination in Scotland in general after making a trip there 15 years ago.

His first "Highland" was Hamish, who he bought when the beast was 10 months old. Hamish turns six later this year.

"My love of Scotland was first," says Mr Stewart.

"After that, the Highland was just an extension of Scotland. To me, loving Scotland meant loving Highlands - and their massive horns and shaggy fur always made me think of woolly mammoths.

"Who wouldn't want a woolly mammoth for a pet?"

Image copyright Marc Stewart
Image caption Marc Stewart with Hamish, who first arrived at the Stewarts' farm when he was 10 months old

Asked to describe his Highlanders' personalities, Mr Stewart says: "That's an easy one.

"Hamish is easy going, laid back and usually very calm and collected. He's happy standing in the pond or laying in the shade under an old oak.

"Kyloe, is the consummate "little brother". Always getting into things he shouldn't, testing fences, beating up gate panels or loose buckets and his favourite, trying to get Hamish stirred up enough to push back."

Coo do you think you are?

Image copyright Marc Stewart

Hamish and Kyloe are members of one of Britain's oldest and hardiest breeds of cattle.

According to the Highland Cattle Society, whose patron is the Queen, written records of the distinctive-looking beasts go back to the 18th Century.

The Highland Cattle Herd Book, which lists pedigrees, was first published in 1885.

Herds of Highlanders, also affectionately known as Heilan Coos, are known as folds and these have been founded across the world.

Kyloe is another name for black haired West Highland Cattle.

Hundreds of thousands of these cattle used to be raised in the Highlands and Islands.

Image copyright Marc Stewart
Image caption Hamish at ease in his barn

Mr Stewart believes the pair, along with a pig called Siggy, have become popular online because of their appearance.

He says: "People see this massive horned animal being loving and gentle and they're used to seeing that behaviour from a dog or something.

"But having a 2,000lb animal act that way is something entirely different.

"The size is a bit intimidating for most. They see a puny human controlling this great shaggy beast and are amazed at his obvious raw power and strength.

"I would also like to add that they are very intelligent.

"Hamish goes to great lengths to avoid hitting me with his horns, unless he's bumping my arm in an effort to get me to brush him more."

Mr Stewart adds: "I am in the process of publishing my first book ever, not bad for a guy who dropped out of high school because of dyslexia which was not understood as it is now, on my adventures in Scotland.

"My first trip 15 years ago, is what led me to decide to get Highlands."

Image copyright Marc Stewart
Image caption The Stewarts' contented pig Siggy