Traits and Appearance




Developed as a dual-purpose crofters cow, Shetland Cattle are unusual in that the breed displays a wide variety of type. In a marginal and often hostile environment, the prime quality was seen to be productiveness under harsh conditions, able to survive periods of famine and shortages while providing milk and meat for the household and that quality endures. Shetlands maintain condition on a basic ration and remain healthy even when poor nutrition leads to weight loss, a corollary to this is the ability to gain condition rapidly on spring grazing. It is this genetic adaptation that is one of the breed’s greatest strengths, the ability to remain productive on a very low plane of nutrition. This is a vital genetic trait, part of domestic livestock bio-diversity, evolved over many centuries and vulnerable to modern agri-business pressures

Despite the wide variety of type the breed does have a breed standard, set in 1911. This states that an average height for a cow is 48” and 52” for a bull making it a relatively small breed.

All animals should be fine boned with a small head and short incurving horns. The neck is relatively long and thin, but the back short with wide hindquarters in keeping with body depth. Average weight is 8.5cwt for a cow and 12 cwt for a bull. Historically a wide variety of colours were seen but black and white now predominate. More recent births see a return of red and red and white and in a few rare cases, brindle, dun and grey.