American Highland Cattle Association celebrates 75th anniversary

Red Highland cow and calf stand in a pasture.(Photo courtesy of American Highland Cattle Association.)

In honor of the American Highland Cattle Association’s 75th anniversary, the group has teamed up with the South Dakota Hall of Fame Visitor and Education Center to present a national exhibit recognizing the ranchers who overcame challenging times and helped form the organization.

Rich in historical imagery, documentation, artifacts and newspaper articles from the day, the American Highland Cattle Association Exhibit tells the story of AHCA’s origin. Founded as the American Scotch Highland Breeders Association in 1948, AHCA has the only globally recognized American Highland herd book, which has direct connections to every other leading Highland cattle organization in the world.

“This exceptional heritage breed deserved to have its bloodlines preserved, so we owe our gratitude to our association’s founding members for their foresight,” notes Tom McConnell, the group’s secretary and historian. “Without AHCA, there are no true Highlands in the United States.”

AHCA has come a long way in its 75 years, and 2023 in particular has been a significant year for the organization. AHCA broke its previous membership record earlier in the year when it surpassed 2200 members, and it has already registered a record number of animals in 2023, with more than 66,200 Highlands on the fullblood registry. Both milestones are a testament to the organization’s strength and popularity of Highland cattle in the U.S.

“Interest in Highland cattle has really exploded in recent years, and much of it has been driven by AHCA’s improved marketing campaign, its strong social media presence and its thriving program for junior members,” McConnell adds. “From there, the hardy breed’s attractive appearance, docile temperament and high quality beef captures ranchers’ attention and often ends up convincing them to raise a fold of their own. As a result, we’re seeing an increase in the number of shows being held and the attendance at these events.”

While this jump in popularity has occurred within a short period of time, the breed’s overall growth has been a more gradual process. Thanks to decades of hard work put in by AHCA and its member-breeders, Highland cattle became plentiful enough to graduate from the Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List in 2019. For this to happen, more than 1,000 registrations must be issued annually in the U.S., and more than 25,000 animals globally.

As far as the next 75 years are concerned, McConnell believes the future is bright for AHCA and the Highland breed alike.

“We have a strong group of passionate members dedicated to advancing the breed and our junior membership program is growing by leaps and bounds, so AHCA will continue to be the nation’s primary authority on Highlands,” he concludes. “As for the breed itself, our objective is to continue promoting Highlands as a viable beef source. Many consumers find Highlands’ lean, but juicy and flavorful cuts of premium beef to be superior. So, we have a great opportunity to increase the size of that growing market of consumers who want to buy their beef direct from the farm.”

The American Highland Cattle Association Exhibit will be on display at the South Dakota Hall of Fame Visitor & Education Center in Chamberlain, South Dakota, until June 2026. For more information, visit

Visit the AHCA website at or call its headquarters at 303-659-2399 to learn more about the organization, its benefits and membership.