Most people find companionship in dogs or cats, but one farmer calls two highland cows his best friends. When you run a farm, you naturally end up befriending the animals under your care. Spending so much time with them, you start to form a bond just like you would with an indoor pet.
Hamish and Kyloe, two Scottish Highland cows, live in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. With plenty of space to roam, these happy cows enjoy a natural, relaxing environment on Thistle Do Farm. Marc Stewart runs the farm and cares for the beloved cows, considering them a part of his family.
“You know, it sounds kind of silly, but when you have a dog or a cat, you kind of bring them into your life,” Marc says. “When you have a pet cow, it’s kind of the opposite; you’ve got to step into his and have him not only accept you but love you, and that’s the most amazing thing.”
He also owns other animals like chickens, pigs, horses, dogs, and goats. Marc enjoys having so many animal friends around him, and caring for them comes naturally to him.
“Most of my adult life, I worked with animals. I was a veterinary technician for a while, worked for animal control, trained dogs for search and rescue for quite a while, but I’d never had cows before,” Marc says.
Marc’s special connection to Scotland
He never planned on having cows. However, his mom’s fascination with Scotland, where Kyloe and Hamish are, rubbed off on him. Growing up, he started to develop a keen interest in the country and its wildlife himself.
“My sister and I had the chance to go to Scotland for ten days, and that’s where I saw my first Highland cow,” Marc explained.
That trip inspired him to get his highland cows, Kyloe and Hamish.
“I got Hamish about nine years ago; a farmer that I knew was getting ready to retire. He called me up one day and said, ‘Hey, I’ve got one more 10-month-old calf. Do you want him?’”
Marc didn’t have to think twice about it. He went over to the farmer’s house a week later to pick Hamish up. Marc said he got the other cow Kyloe when Hamish was around four years old.
“Kyloe was probably three at the time. They’re only about six months apart in age, despite their size difference,” Marc said.
They also have unique personalities. Hamish used to act mischievous at times, jumping over the fence and wandering the neighborhood at night. He just wanted to find someone or something to play with before Kyloe came along. Marc started searching for a companion for Hamish.
“So, I started looking around; I found a guy, made him an offer – obviously he took it,” Marc explained. “My whole point of getting him was to keep Hamish out of trouble, but the Highland that I picked, I never imagined that he would wind up being more trouble than Hamish.”
Even though the cows are a handful sometimes, Marc couldn’t imagine life without them now. He shares a special bond with all his animals, but nothing compares to his highland cows’ relationship.
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“I think the most rewarding thing about having these guys is just being allowed to be a part of their life.”
How Marc’s farm came to life and his plans for the future
In a YouTube video of him with one of his highland cows, he says he’s always been an outdoorsy guy. He had a couple of horses growing up, which taught him a lot about caring for farm animals. His dad also took him camping quite a bit, which sparked a deep love and appreciation for nature.
However, when Marc got older, his jobs and responsibilities took him away from farm life for a while. He didn’t own any livestock or horses for around thirty years because he had no space for them. When his wife got pregnant, though, and the couple realized they would need more space. That’s when he founded Thistle Do Farm, the last remaining 15 acres of what was once a 400-acre farm.
They now live comfortably in a 3,000 square foot farmhouse, enjoying the quiet countryside. They decided to get a couple of rescue horses first but didn’t consider cows until later on. After Marc’s Scotland trip, the idea grew on him. After seeing highland cows for the first time there, he knew eventually he’d own one.
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Little did he know where that dream would take him. He and his wife now have many different farm animals and have plans to open a sanctuary. After getting their highland cows, they realized that most cows have a much different fate. Cows raised on commercial farms are killed or culled if they don’t measure up.
On smaller farms, cows who are born premature or have injuries may have a similar fate. The farmers may not have the money to relocate or take care of these animals. So, Thistle Do Farm now plans to become a nonprofit organization to bring in injured, sick, or unwanted animals. If you’d like to donate to their cause or read more about their mission, you can do so here.
Final thoughts: a man’s love for highland cows make him realize a bigger dream
Marc Stewart never thought he’d one day have a vast sanctuary with so many different farm animals. Now, he wants nothing more than to save the animals out there who don’t have a loving home. He hopes to turn his small farm into a nonprofit organization where animals can live out their lives in peace. Marc has been an animal lover all his life and wants to help as many as he can.
His two highland cows, Kyloe and Hamish, have shown him the incredible bond between man and cows. They aren’t just farm animals. Indeed, they are loving pets that deserve a safe home. Marc’s relationship with his cows has touched the lives of thousands of people all over the world.