Hairy Coos

These are hairy coos.

On our recent trip to Scotland, my husband was charmed by these creatures. Everyone on our tour bus joined him in a fun photo experience while being driven around Scotland.

We were sitting in the back row of the bus for hours touring the highlands of Scotland. The days were often rainy, windy and cloudy. Sometimes the sun would peek out briefly. Scots will tell you that the weather changes in a minute, so be prepared for all kinds of weather in one day with both warm and lighter clothing.

The scenery was magnificent and awe inspiring when we could see through the rain drops on the windows. Our searching for the hairy coos helped to brighten our days and kept us all busy looking for these interesting and attractive cows that live in the Scottish Highlands.

Driving in the Highlands we were often bouncing along old and narrow one lane roads. As we met oncoming vehicles we had to constantly dodge one another. Every vehicle we met had to quickly swerve into a ditch or back up. There were few passing lanes or pull-outs like the ones on English roads. When our bus passed another large vehicle, we held our breath, as our vehicles were usually just inches apart. When it was over, we always clapped with relief for our talented driver.

To Philip’s delight, our driver said he knew where to find the hairy coos along the road. He would announce a sighting and we would slow down for a photo op. For the first few hours, Philip missed most of the photo opportunities. Either he was dozing when the sighting was announced, his camera wasn’t ready, there were too many rain drops on the windows to get a good picture, or the coos refused to stand still for a good photo.

Many of our 40 new touring friends tried to help Philip find these creatures at ever bend in the road. They were constantly standing up, pointing and shouting instructions about where to point his smart phone. Some even helped out by taking photos for him for later delivery as we had no Internet connections up there. We all had fun constantly searching for them and it helped to pass the time. Five hours is a long time to stay in a bus, even with a few potty breaks.

If you have traveled to Scotland you know about hairy coos. But if you haven’t, and have never heard of the them, check out the local gift shops when you arrive. Their hairy faces and bodies can be found on anything you can imagine. They appear on post cards, stationery, refrigerator magnets, key chains and calendars. Little stuffed hairy coo dolls in a wide range of sizes, are in every shop. I was surprised to find them on dish towels, toaster covers, napkins and painted on large pieces to cloth to hang on your wall. Philip is not the only visitor to find them interesting.

I never thought that I would say that a cow is cute. In fact I don’t think anyone thinks that cows are cute except maybe dairy farmers and cowboys. And I am not sure about the cowboys.

Hairy coos have long horns and long wavy hair on their sturdy bodies. Sometimes you can hardly see their eyes because there is so much hair covering their faces. They come in a variety of colors, rust, golden and black. I also saw streaks of gray and white running through their heavy thick hair.

I was envious of their hair coloring and it’s thickness. I also liked their long bangs that often covered their eyes, like big shaggy sheep dogs. That is probably why I thought they were the best looking cows I have ever seen. But when you get close to them, you can see how the oil they produce, really mattes their top layer of hair to protect them from the cold, rain and winds of Scotland. This is why they can survive the blustery weather conditions in the Highlands.

They are well suited for the steep mountain areas of Scotland where they have been raised since the sixth century. They are skillful in finding food for grazing and eating plants that many other cattle do not eat. And their horns are useful to dig through the snow to find buried plants.

Our better photos came from the Hebrides Isle of Iona where St. Columba came to build a monastery and where Philip finally was able to get some coos to cooperate. In the monastery, monks worked on the Book of Kells until the Vikings came to raid and pillage. The monks fled, taking the Book of Kells to Ireland where it is now housed at Trinity College, in Dublin.

We found a small herd of hairy coos in the fields surrounding this deserted monastery and convent. They were close to the fence and seemed tame. I actually got right up next to one. He didn’t seem to mind my taking close up photos of his face. A man next to me was actually petting him. This little hairy coo did not mind and just kept eating the grass like a big tame dog.

In the same field was a huge black hairy coo. I think he must have been the head bull as there was a large gold ring in his nose. He didn’t seem very friendly and I was hesitant to touch him. I was told that farmers pull on these rings to make them move to other pastures. They do have a calm temperament and have usually been used as house cows. They are generally good natured but protective of their young.

We have about 100 pictures of these cows on our phones. This is one of them. I’m not sure what we are going to to with the rest. Maybe we should make some refrigerator magnets. You want one?

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