Michelle Shaughnessy from Granard with her Scottish Highland Cattle Hamish and Henry were a big attraction to visitors at Virginia Show on Wednesday last.

‘Aren't they beautiful?’

By simply standing there, they won the hearts of just about every passer-by. Viewers were transfixed for ages admiring a pair of Highland cattle. They seem to hark back to some ancient past, and radiate the feel that they are the real deal when it comes to cattle.

With giant frames, luxurious indie-band fringes, horns befitting a dinosaur, and an air of indifference to the fuss they cause, the bulls are completely comfortable in their own ginormous skins. You can't imagine a Baileys Cow equivalent competition for these guys – not needing judges' validation, they simply wouldn't turn up.

Anyway Hamish and Henry need not flaunt their good points as they seemingly have the breed's greatest advocate in Michelle Shaughnessy to talk them up. Like an adoring mother grabbing her passing toddler for a snuggle, Michelle spontaneously attempts to bear hug her Highland guys who are maybe 20 times her size.

Seeing the closeness of their bond, the Celt wonders what trauma Michelle must endure come factory day. She hastily explains she keeps her cattle as pets.

“One of the joys of owning highland cattle is when it’s factory day I know my darlings I'll never go to the factory. Never,” emphasises Michelle, who is a daughter of the late Mickey Shaughnessy who ran a large beef enterprise at Granard. “I have to say for farmers it must be so tough to part with animals that you are so close to. So I always thinks it’s nice to have a small herd of pets.”

Michelle is proud to be a trustee of the Highland Cattle Society and happily reports that the numbers of Irish members have swollen from a half a dozen to about 40 within a few short years. Her enthusiasm, and willingness to bring Hamish and Henry to agricultural shows no doubt played a part in that growth.

“Every show I go to there's always another show looking for them because they are the most placid, gentle, gorgeous, stunning, beautiful cattle.”

To source her pedigree cattle, Michelle found a rather interesting vendor.

“I buy my cattle through Balmoral. Queen Elizabeth is the is the patron of the Highland Cattle Society and I'm currently bringing in a few more heifers – Prince Charles signed off on them in February, so I will be the only person Balmoral will sell to in Ireland,” she says.

The bulls' winter coats are impressive, yet still not at their peak. By late October the outer oil coat will measure 13 inches in length, while they are doubly insulated by a fluffier inner coat. Since they are essentially draped in a 15 tog quilt, Michelle's strongly advises to always over-winter a Highland animal out in the field – they are well equipped for the worst an Irish January could hurl at them.

“They're a native of the Scottish highland so the purpose of their horn is to forage through the snow for grass to survive the winter,” she explains Michelle who keeps her small fold at her Graffogue farm.

They're also useful for keeping weeds in check.

“They would eat thistles and nettles ahead of grass. They are a great way of cleaning up the land – you'll often see them rooting through the hedges rather than eating a patch of grass,” says.

This is where their fringe, known as a dossan, comes in.

“The purpose of the dossan is to protect their eyes from the thistles. They are the only cattle with a dossan – isn't it lovely?

“Aren't they beautiful,” she coos.

Yes, yes they are, and the crowds at Virginia Show can attest to that.