There are some very interesting coat colour changes that occur in calves and because we usually register them in their first year, sometimes it helps to know what colour they are going to become so that they can be registered correctly. Needless to say with Highlands, this is not always an easy task, but there are a few tips that will help.

The three spots to check are the muzzle, feet and the tip of the tail. Checking these will often help you to predict their adult colour, which can be quite different to what their calf coat might otherwise suggest. The actual calf coat has numerous shades (of red to brown) that a keen eye can have an educated guess as to the adult colour that they will be.

Red is the most common colour and while most of them are born a rich red colour, after a few months they can look a lot like a yellow calf. Here the hair on the tip of the tail gives a clue as well as the hair immediately around the muzzle and eyes.

Red calf - notice the hair around the muzzle Red cow.

Brindle calves look red at birth but there is often some black pigment on the nose and as the undercoat starts to appear around the eyes, the black stripes can be seen.

Calf that ends up being brindle - note the pigment on the muzzle. Brindle heifer.

Some yellow calves can look nearly the same as a red calf at birth, but their feet are slightly lighter in shade and the tip of the tail is lighter. The hair immediately around the muzzle is quite light as well.

Yellow bull calf - note the light colouring around the muzzle. Yellow bull (same animal as calf on the left).

White calves are usually easy and are stunningly white. If anything, as they age they are seem more cream in colour, especially when the coat is short - through summer.

White heifer calf. White cow (same animal as calf on the left).

Black calves are either born jet black, or 'milk chocolate' in colour. Many of them start turning a chocolaty brown colour after a month or so before becoming black again by weaning as this chocolate coat sheds. (see 'Black Coat Colour Changes' for more detail)

One week old black heifer calf - born chocolate (but with a black nose). Black cow (was born chocolate in colour).


Jet black heifer calf. Same black heifer to left at 8 months old.


Three week old bull calf born jet black but already turning chocolate. Black yearling bull (same animals as calf to the left).

Similar to black calves, dun animal can be born a true dun colour (grey) or a 'chocolate' colour. The key difference between so called 'chocolate' calves (black or dun) and red calves is that their nose has black or grey pigment and the feet are black.

Dun heifer calf (born gun metal grey). Dun cow (summer coat).

A dun heifer calf that was born light chocolate. Looks pretty much the same as the red heifer at the top of this page, except for the grey pigment on the feet and nose.

Dun heifer (born chocolate). Dun cow.

A silver dun heifer calf born a very light grey colour but had obvious grey pigment on her nose and feet.

One week old silver dun heifer calf. Silver dun cow (note the grey muzzle and feet).

This page will explain most calf colours but if you have one that doesn't quite match, email us a photo and we will see if we can work it out for you. Every now and then we see something that we have never seen before - the Highland breed is truly amazing.