The Highland Cow

Introducing my take on the iconic Scottish Highland Cow.

Highland Cow Close Up, Rebecca Johnstone

With my Glasgow and Paisley collections well-stocked with designs, I thought it was time I turned my attention to my roots in the Scottish Highlands.

I think a lot of tourists visiting Scotland imagine seeing a Highland Cow as soon as they arrive on Scottish soil, maybe even grazing in a field outside the airport, but the Highland cow is in fact a little more elusive.

I realised just how elusive when I went to photograph some of these gorgeous beasts in their natural habitat.

Highland Cows on a Hill, Rebecca Johnstone

Lots of artists and designers feature Highland cows in their work, and instead of just jumping on the bandwagon, I wanted to experiment with the story I was trying to tell through my designs.

As I called to them from the fields, I fondly named the handsome pair I found grazing Hamish and Henrietta.

Highland Cow face, Rebecca Johnstone

I imagined a love story under the Highland stars; a courtship at the back of the cow shed. But maybe they’re both girls, or maybe they’re both boys, or maybe they’re even siblings - I’m not bias! Free (Highland Cow) love!

Highland Cow Coffee Shop, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cows, Rebecca Johnstone

I wanted to create a simple line illustration I could use in different ways, and then add texture. Creating the texture was fun! This is Hamish.

Hamish the Highland Cow illustration, Rebecca Johnstone
Highland Cow - textured, Rebecca Johnstone

I love both versions of Hamish, and the slightly disinterested expression. I mean, if anything sums up the attitude of a Highland Cow it’s disinterest surely?

This next version of the print with a background of my Mackintosh-inspired TARTAN ROSE pattern feels like it fits my more ‘maximalist’ style. Or maybe the simple white version on the patterned background would be better?

What do you think? Is it too much to have THREE Scottish trends in one image?!

Highland Cow illustration with patterned background, Rebecca Johnstone

Now I need to work a bit more on Henrietta to get that Highland romance off the ground…moooo!

Hamish and Henrietta Highland Cow Love, Rebecca Johnstone

Those gorgeous tousled fringes swishing in the breeze, the cute slobbery snouts and trusting eyes. I wish I could have taken one or both of them home with me, but that’s neither practical, responsible - or legal!

Highland Cows deserve to stay in the habitat they love, and that’s firmly in the Scottish Highlands enjoying the best of the Scottish weather, come rain or shine.

I see a Highland Cow pattern in my future. Watch this space for more Highlands-inspired designs. Also a big shout-out to my Dad, who knew just the spot for me to photograph Hamish & Henrietta :D

Accessibility: a lovely reader got in touch to ask for an audio version of my posts. This is the first time I’ve tried it but you should be able to listen to the audio below. Please note, neither of these are my own voice!