New Zealand Breed Standard

The following descriptions constitute the current NZ Breed standard as defined by the New Zealand Highland Cattle Society as at April 2010.


Head and Jaw
The head and jaw of the Highlander should be short, with a wide muzzle. A wide muzzle is essential to ensure that there is plenty of space to eat and that the animal gets a secure hold on its food. The bottom teeth should rest firmly on the pad of the upper jaw. If the lower jaw is over or undershot the animal will not be able to bite or chew sufficient food for its daily needs.

The eye should be clear and bright and free from disease. It maybe any colour. The eyelashes are long and curl upwards. Prospective breeders often look for alertness in the eye of a bull.

The dossan is the name for the long hair on the head. It should cover the eyes. It may be curly or straight.

Ears should be well rounded and sit on the head at the “ten to two” position. Long strands of hair fall from the ear. Animals with ragged edges or pieces missing from the ear may be exhibiting a genetic fault called “Crop Ear” which is specifically discussed under constitution rules, and must be clearly identified on the pedigree of any animal with Crop Ear.

Horns for a bull should be strong and level on the head. They grow outward from the head and then curl slightly forward with the tips upward. Horns for a female are finer than those of a bull. They should be level with the head and grow outward before turning upwards and then outwards at the tip. On some cows the tip of the horn will also tip backwards. All sets of horns should be symmetrical.

New Zealand Highland Cattle Society does not accept for Purebred or Fullblood registration any animal that is polled (i.e. has no horns naturally occurring).


Neck and Shoulders
Neck and shoulders should be strong and well proportioned. The neck should be short and firm, not scrawny. It should curve gently into a neat brisket. The neck and brisket of the bull will be much thicker and fuller than those of the cow. The shoulder should not protrude. It should sit well into the body giving the animal a solid look when viewed from the front.

The belly should be straight, thus giving the animal a healthy beefy look.

The ribs should show plenty of spring thus giving lots of room for the animal’s vital organs (heart, lungs, etc. This is essential to ensure good growth and a long life.

The hindquarters should be strong, even and heavy with meat. It is an area of the animal that carries most of the saleable meat. When we look at the rear of the ideal animal it should be a deep block. Side view should be deep and rounded. Both should be heavily muscled.

The tail head should not protrude from the body. This leaves the rear of the animal with a square, even look. The tip of the tail should have plenty of long hair giving it a thick, bushy look.

The legs should be thick set and straight with good bone and a good covering of hair, and the animal should be seen to be walking freely and easily, the legs not brushing against each other. The best description is that the legs should sit evenly on the four corners of the animal and should lead down into well set and large hooves.

The feet are one of the most important features of the animal. Healthy feet are vital so that the animal can walk to water and feed and so that the bull can mount the cow. The hoof should be free from cracks and the animal able to walk on the sole of the foot. There should not be any excessive growth of the hooves. The observer should be able to see light between the cleats.

The udder should be firmly attached to the body with the teats placed evenly on the four corners of the udder and of a size that a young calf can suckle. An uneven udder with one quarter obviously larger than the others may indicate a history of mastitis in that animal.

The testicles of the bull should be attached firmly to the body. Both should be of comparable size but not so long that the bull is in danger of injuring himself by accidentally treading on them as he stands up. Two cans of beer are a reasonable comparative measure.

The coat of the Highlander gives the animal its distinctive shaggy look. There are two coats. The outer coat is long and strong and keeps the wet weather away from their skin, while the undercoat is soft and almost fluffy to keep their bodies warm. This undercoat does not grow long to renew the outer coat as each coat is separately renewed. The hair may be straight or gently curling. In wild weather hair that is too curly will hold the rain and snow to the detriment of the health of the animal. In summer the animal will shed most of its coat. This is especially so if the cow is in milk.

The colour of the Highlander should be full colour and may be of any of the six official colours: white, yellow, red, brindle, black and dun. It is often difficult for the new breeder to identify the colour of a new calf as most calves are red balls of fluff when they are born.
White: Obviously white
Yellow: Ranges from dark cream to light red
Red: Obviously rich red
Brindle: Black stripes on the face, neck and body
Black: Clearly black by 12 months, sometimes dusky black at birth
Dun: Silver through greys and browns to dark grey, nearly black.

Please note that the New Zealand Highland Cattle Society does not accept any parti coloured animals for purebred or fullblood registration. White on the belly anywhere from behind the front legs to the udder and a white switch to the tail would be acceptable as they are considered to be consistent with Highland characteristics.