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Scottish Cattle at the Highland Games

written by

Carole Soule

posted on

September 27, 2021

June and Bear, Scottish Highlander yearlings, spent time mowing the lawn at the 2021 Scottish Highland Games & Festival at Loon Mountain. 

Our hairy critters would have suffered in bright sun and high temperatures, but the weather last weekend was perfect: overcast and cool. We were at the 2021 Scottish Highland Games at Loon Mountain with June and Bear, two Scottish Highlander yearlings.

N.H. Highland Games & Festival, hosted by NHSCOT, included track and field events, piping, sheep herding (my favorite), Highland dancing competitions, and "heavy events" like the tug-o-war, the hammer throw, and tossing the caber. The caber toss is a traditional Scottish event where competitors toss a 16-20-foot tapered pole that weighs 90-150 pounds. An important skill every Scott should possess. Why throw a pole? Why not?

Queen Elizabeth Owns Cattle

What could be more Scottish than Scottish Highlander cattle? That's why Miles Smith Farm Scottish Highlander cattle, also known as Heelan coos, were there. Highland cattle are a heritage breed, bred to withstand the intemperate conditions in Scotland where farmers kept them to produce milk and meat. Queen Elizabeth keeps a herd, also called a fold, of Highland cattle at Balmoral Castle. Our Highlanders were all born in the USA, but the first Highland cattle were imported to the United States in the late 1890s.

Highland cattle have an unusual double coat of hair. On the outside is the oily outer hair — the longest of any cattle breed — covering a downy undercoat, making them well-suited to the cold and snow of the Scottish Highlands and New Hampshire.

Working Heifer?

During my two presentations at the fairgrounds stage, June and Bear, managed by teamster Maggie Harrington, demonstrated their skills as a pair of working steers. Steers are neutered males, so technically, June is a working heifer. There is no event for mixed doubles at pulling competitions at county fairs, so these two would be disqualified. But that detail didn't make any difference with the Highland Games audience, who embraced gender neutrality in cattle!

Before tractors were invented, working steers and oxen did the heavy lifting on a farm. Farmers used them to haul the rocks from fields to build stone walls, haul logs from the woods, and even transport families in a cart to church on Sunday.

Bagpipe bands filled the air all day with stirring Scottish music. Usually, June and Bear got nervous and edgy during a long event, but they were calm and collected that day. I think the music of their ancestors resonated with them. 

Men In Kilts

I'm not Scottish, but I can tell you what resonated with me: All those men in kilts! While June and Bear posed for selfies and enjoyed being brushed by their fans, I was distracted by the guys. They have a special allure. They walk with more confidence than others, and knees can be sexy. Do you think they know? So, men in kilts, thank you for making me smile.

To make my day complete, husband Bruce came home with a kilt.

A man-in-a-kilt hangs out with Bear, a Miles Smith Farm Scottish Highlander steer.

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