Red-headed love

My mom’s obsession with Highland cows has become a family affair

A young girl sits on a bail of hay and smiles, while petting a baby pig and looking at a baby Highland cow.
Elena Mares, Forestview Drive, sits with Peppa pig and Bo the Highland cow.

My Scotch-Irish mom dreamed of visiting Scotland ever since she overheard her bearded uncles discussing their clan, or family tartan, and dreams of visiting the motherland.  

In 2018, my family finally made it to Scotland where we made an unexpected friend along the way. While driving on the narrow, winding roads near the sea, we caught a glimpse of orange, shaggy fur. The friendly Highland cows munched on the lush green grass and mingled near the jagged shoreline. The site took our breath away, so we decided to park and get a better view.  

A family surrounds a group of Highland cows in an open field, next to a lake, on a cloudy day
The Mares family in Scotland in 2018. From left, Laura, Elena, Ben, and Anna.

Soon we were surrounded by a dozen 2,000-pound cows as they strolled on the road, the bells around their necks chiming. My mom will never forget that awe-inspiring scene.  

My friends’ moms love yoga, taking the dog for a walk or listening to 80s rock in the car. My mom is obsessed with Highland cows, or “hairy coos.”  

Upon our return to the states, my mom, a professional photographer, printed out a massive portrait of the cow we met in Scotland and hung it in our living room wall. She also started a Highland cow mug collection and began her search for Highland cows near us.  

We’ve visited the few Highland cow farms in the region, including Maryland’s Yorkie Acres and Hickory Hearth Highland in Pa. Last week we added a new farm to our list: Autumn Ridge Farm. We made the hour drive from our Mt. Lebanon home to Scottdale, Pa. and visited their 3-month-old, miniature Highland cow, Bo, who weights 160 lbs.   

There are Highland cow enthusiasts out there who are as passionate as my mom, because the farm is frequently booked for their bottle-feeding sessions.  

Two families can sign up to feed the calf a bottle of milk a day.   

A young girl bottle feeds a baby Highland cow
Elena Mares, 9, bottle-feeds Bo, a Highland cow at Autumn Ridge Farms.

Rachel Long and her husband run the farm and love taking care of their Highland cow. Long began offering photoshoot experiences with their dairy cows years ago, and recently started receiving requests for a “furry cow.” She thought it would be fun to own one. 

Bo, three-month-old Highland cow, enjoys his life at Autumn Ridge Farm.
Bo, three-month-old Highland cow, enjoys his life at Autumn Ridge Farm.

She investigated online and found Bo from a farm in Illinois. Her young daughters love petting and feeding Bo and meeting his visitors. Kylie and Kelsie Long, 5-year-old twin sisters, love playing with the cow. Running in their bright rain boots with matching tutus while playing with their pet pig, Peppa, they clearly enjoy life on the farm.

According to Rachel Long, the novelty of a baby Highland cow has worn off for them, however. 

“They grew up with him and think it’s normal,” she said.  

When asked why Highland cows have become so popular, she mused that it may be because they’re cute and like a big dog.  

Her daughters were indignant: “Bo is not a dog.”   

The novelty certainly hasn’t run off for my family. My mom hopes to continue visiting Highland cows in the region, maybe even returning to Scotland. She loves their unique look, good-natured temperament and how they match her red, Scotch-Irish hair.  

Interested in visiting Highland cows? Autumn Ridge Farm is an hour away at 224 Hedgedus Road, Scottdale, PA 15683. Follow them on Facebook or on Instagram. Hickory Hearth Highlands is 40 minutes away at 460 Ridge Road, McDonald, PA 15057.