Although they hail from different parts of the globe, there's no question that Scottish Highland cattle and the domestic yak bear some resemblance to each other. They're both tough, hardy beasts, able to flourish in harsh climates. Although the former are more common in the West, it's the yak who is the more versatile of the two. In addition to providing meat, milk, fiber and leather, the yak serves as a pack animal and a riding mount in China and neighboring countries. Scottish Highland cattle are primarily used for beef.
Scottish Highland cattle are true cattle, or bos taurus, while yaks are considered bos grunions, or oxen. However, the two can crossbreed. The resulting calf may be fertile if female, but sterile if male.
Coat and Colors
The double coat of the Scottish Highland cow is thick and shaggy, designed to withstand the harsh Northern winters. While the majority of the breed sports light red hair, other colors are common. These include:
- Dark red
- Brindle: dark striping on a lighter base coat
- Dun: a lighter body shade with darker points.
The yak's coat is quite dense, but the undercoat has an almost cashmerelike quality. Yaks appear primarily in black or light brown shades, but many have white patches on their back or sides.
Scottish Highland cattle are considerably larger than yaks. Scottish Highland cows weigh between 900 and 1,300 pounds, while yak cows weigh between 500 and 800 pounds at maturity. Scottish Highland steers and bulls weigh between 1,500 and 2,000 pounds at maturity, while their yak counterparts tip the scales at between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds.
Both species are noted for their significant horns. Those of the yak look like handlebars. It's easy to tell the difference between a male and female Scottish Highland bovine by observing the horns. The cow's horns usually sweep upward, while of the bull are larger and point outward.
Despite the horns, both species are easy to work with and known for their good dispositions and reproductive ease.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.