Shetland Cattle are native to the Shetland Islands, 50 miles northeast of mainland Scotland. For centuries they were essential "house cows" for the rural crofting families. It is estimated that at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were 15,000 native Shetland Cattle on the Islands. However, in the early 1900's larger beed breeds started to be imported, and Shetlands decreased in number. The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) categorized the Shetland as critically endangered in 1981 when 75 pure bred cows and 30 bulls were identified.
According to the Shetland Cattle Breeders Association, "Numbers have since improved to around 800 breeding females, with 180 pure bred calves registered each year, most of them now from the UK mainland. Due to its sound temperament, it is increasingly popular as a smallholder's cow and in a multi-suckling herd. The pure Shetland's meat is highly prized and its longevity, easy calving and ability to tighten calving patterns make it an attractive all-rounder.
Appearance / health:
According to the Shetland Cattle Breeders Association, "The cattle are predominantly black and white with about 10% red and white, but some of the old colours such as dun, grey and brindled are returning in small numbers. The cows are small to medium sized, 350kg to 500kg, with the bulls somewhat heavier. There is a range of shapes indicating the diversity of the breed but they are deep bodied on short legs with fine bone. They have distinctive horns, short but curving inwards and slightly upwards, "Viking" style. They are not susceptible to any particular health issues."