The 5 Most Beautiful Animals in Scotland

Scotland has a more diverse range of habitats than almost any country of comparable size which makes it a prime location for bird and wildlife watchers from around the world.

Wildlife and domestic animals play a big part in the life of locals and tourists alike, especially in the Highlands and on the coast. The fact that Scotland has no wolves or bears has a big impact on what animals you see and, more importantly, where you see them.

My Favorite Five Scottish Animals

1. Highland Cattle

An apparently unhappy Highland cow

Affectionately known as hairy coos because of their unmistakable shaggy coat (hairs often across their eyes), Highland cows are a highlight of any trip in the Scottish Highlands. Originally, the most popular color was black but these days, black hairy cows are a rare sight in Scotland with tan and red cattle being the most common. With Highland calves, in particular, the cuteness factor is off the scale.

Tourists are attracted to hairy cows like a magnet. Take Hamish, for example. Hamish 'The Hairy Coo' is a tourist-friendly Highland cow in Kilmahog, Callander. He must be the most photographed cow in Scotland, partly because he's fenced off and known to be friendly but also because most tourist buses stop here.

One thing to remember, though, is that out in the open grazing areas, you should not get too close to Highland cows. While they are not easily stressed, they have long horns which can be particularly dangerous. Always keep a safe distance and use your zoom for close-up pictures.

If your luck is out and you don't see any coos grazing by the side of the road, don't despair. You could be one of the 'unlucky' ones who encounter them on the single-track roads of the Highlands causing traffic jams. It doesn't get any more Scottish than that!

More photos of Hairy Coos in Scotland
Hairy cow blocking the road near Plockton
Adorable Highland calf
These cows can see, despite their long coat
Hairy calf, Duirinish
Long hairs on a Highland calf

2. Sheep

Sheep family on Skye

There are plenty of sheep in my country as there will be in yours. However, I can honestly say I've never seen sheep as funny as the Scottish ones. It's not only how they behave, but also how they look at you and some of the situations they put themselves in.

I once saw four sheep grazing on the same square inch, so to speak, while on another occasion I saw five sheep being chased by what appeared to be a relatively docile dog in Diabaig, Wester Ross.

Seeing sheep roaming the slopes of the Highland hills is not uncommon, neither is seeing them grazing anywhere there's grass, even if it's so close to the cliff edge - as I have once seen myself in the Quiraing on Skye or at Neist Point - that a gust of wind could easily tumble them over.

More photos of Scottish Sheep
Curious sheep in the Highlands
Sheeps and a castle, a tipical Scottish view
Sheeps spotting the way
On the top
Mind the sheep

3. Dolphins

Dolphin breaching at Chanonry Point

Moray Firth is the most renowned location for bottlenose dolphins in Scotland. While you can see dolphins all around Scotland's coast, it's only here, at the Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth where dolphins come as close as a few feet to the shore. On the west coast, on the other hand, you can only see them from a distance or from a boat.

With the increase in sea temperature, more and more dolphins are set to swim the shores of Scotland in the coming years, looking for cooler waters.

More photos of Dolphins in Scotland
Dolphins off Cromarty, Moray Firth
Bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose dolphin, Moray Firth
Dolphin at Chanonry Point
Smiling dolphin

4. Red Deer

Monarch of the Glen

There are over 300,000 red deer in Scotland, many living in the relatively isolated isles of Rum and Jura, on the west coast. The numbers would be much lower if Scotland had any wolves. Despite their beauty, the red deer population has doubled over the last 40 years, threatening habitats supporting other species.

You may be familiar with the phrase Monarch of the Glen which is used to describe a stag with 16 points on his antlers. The name is now liberally used by photographers to describe any Scottish stag. With a bit of luck, the sight of red deer will turn an already beautiful Scottish landscape into a spectacular one.

More photos of Red Deer in Scotland
Stag in Scottish Highlands
Red deer grazing in the Scottish Highlands
Against the elements
Nice portrait

5. Puffins

Puffin with sand eels

Scotland is known as a prime location for seabird species like puffins, gannets, razorbills, etc. Puffins are incredible birds. They are beautifully colored as well as comical and a true delight for kids and adults alike.

The largest puffin colony in Scotland is the isolated archipelago of St Kilda, while the second largest is in Shetland. But these locations are expensive and difficult to reach, especially when time constraints are an issue. Luckily, puffins can also be observed on the east coast of Scotland, on the Firth of Forth (Bass Rock, Isle of May, Fidra, Craigleith) via regular boat tours.

More photos of Puffins in Scotland
Puffins on rocks
Puffin couple
A solitary puffin
Puffins on cliff edge
Puffin in flight

SPECIAL MENTION: Scottish Midges

The only reason midges are included in this article is because, unfortunately for you, you will not be spared an encounter with the infamous Scottish midges if you visit Scotland in the summer. The bloodthirsty Scottish midges cost the country's tourism industry millions of pounds every year and it takes little effort for them to ruin a perfect holiday in Scotland, if the conditions are right.

Remember to take proper measures to prevent the midges from ruining your holiday. This includes having insect repellents, wearing light-colored clothing and avoiding sheltered valleys at dusk or dawn.