Friday, September 18

Terriers of Scotland

Until 1873, all of Scotland’s terriers were grouped together. They were then divided into two groups: Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Skye Terriers. The breeds now known as the Scottish Terrier, the West Highland White Terrier and the Cairn terrier were in the Skye Terrier classification. These three were developed form the same stock and originated in the islands and highlands of western Scotland. The three often were found in the same litter, distinguished only by their color. Toward the end of the 19th century, Scottish Terrier fanciers began to breed along separate lines. In 1908 the West Highland White terrier was acknowledged. The rest of the Skye Terrier classification was called “Short-Haired Skyes”. They were then renamed Cairn Terrier of Skye. In 1912, the shortened name of Cairn Terrier was agreed upon.

West Highland White Terriers "Argus, Piper, and Wynne" with their owner Liz Haug of Bethlehem, PA

Cairn Terrier Size: 14 pounds
Common throughout much of Scotland, cairns were piles of stones which served as landmarks or memorials and were hiding places for small mammals including foxes, weasels and badgers. Small terriers were used by farmers to enter the cairns and bark to hold the animal until the farmer killed it. The modern Cairn remains the closest to its working class roots. Their ancestors were highly prized and bred for their working not their appearance. Such characteristics as courage, tenacity and intelligence, housed in a sturdy body clad in a weather-proof coat, armed with big teeth in strong jaws, were sought generation after generation. The Cairn is friendly, independent, confident, intelligent, strong, loyal, stubborn and strong willed and will dig for real or imagined prey with their large feet and thick nails. Toto from the Wizard of Oz is one of the best known Cairn Terriers.

Scottish Terrier Size: 18 to 22 pounds
Also known as the Aberdeen terrier. They were first bred in the 1700’s. Their main purpose was to hunt badgers and to dig and chase after small vermin. They possessed strong tails to allow the owners to pull them out of the hole they dug going after the prey. This feisty dog breed was nicknamed “little diehard” by George the 19th Earl of Dumbarton in the 19th century. His pack of dogs was so brave they were named Diehards and were to have inspired the name of his regiment in the Royal Scots Guards as “Dumbarton’s Diehards”. The Scottie is alert, quick, feisty, stubborn and rugged with endless determination.

West Highland White Terrier (Westie) Size: 15 to 20 pounds
Originally they were in colors ranging from black to red to cream. Legend one day while hunting with his pack of colored terriers, one of Colonel Edward Donald Malcom’s dogs was accidentally shot as it emerged from the underbrush because it looked very much like a fox. Then and there he decided to only breed white dogs to prevent another unfortunate shooting. They were called Poltalloch terriers after his home in Argyllshire. They are a breed filled with much spunk, determination and devotion in a compact body. They have a lot of energy, tenacity and prey aggression which is keeping with their original purpose.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier Size: 18 to 24 pounds.
This short legged otter and badger specialist developed in the Cheviot and Teviotdale Hills in the border country of Scotland and England. He has a long body – he is longer than he is tall-, short legs and a top knot of hair. He is determined, reserved, intelligent, and fond of children and an excellent guard dog. This breed is the only terrier named for a literary character. In 1815 Sir Walter Scott wrote about his terriers in Guy Mannering. A jovial farmer named Dandie Dinmont kept a pack of six mustard and pepper terriers. (Scot was credited for giving names to the breed’s colors which were names of Dinmont’s dogs). People were eager to own Dandie Dinmont’s Terriers. Scott described them: “He evolved from the Scottish hillside, the grey mists forming his body, a bunch of lichen his topknot, crooked juniper stems his forelegs and a wet bramble his nose”

Skye Terrier Size: 25 to 40 pounds
This elegant, low and long terrier originated on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides. They were the aristocrats of the farm dogs, often kept in the owner’s homes. With their agility, short and sturdy legs for digging and their acute scenting ability they were masters at locating vermin underground and digging until they found them. They gained popularity in England in the 1840’s when Queen Victoria began breeding them. They are twice as long as they are high, serious, good natured, polite, loyal, and protective.

Border Terrier Size 11-15 pounds
This terrier was also bred in the border country between England and Scotland. They have longer legs than any of Scotland’s terriers. They were fox and vermin hunters: active, strong and tireless with a weather resisting coat to help withstand prolonged exposure to drenching rains and mists in the hill country. It is said there was no wall he can’t get over or wire entanglement he could not scramble through. They are playful, friendly and highly energetic. They do have dominant personalities and due to the strong hunting desire, may attack animals smaller that he (cats, rabbits, small dogs).

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