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Scottish Animals and Pets
West Highland Terriers

There is constant debate over which came first, and which breed was developed from the other.  Scotland is a mountainous country, its dog men were a stay-at-home lot, consequently each clan bred its terriers according to its own ideas. Some seem to think that the Skye is the oldest of all five breeds (but not as we know it today) and that the West Highland White, or 'Westie' as he is commonly called, is the Newest of breed.

He was recognized in England by The Kennel Club as a separate breed in 1907, and by the American Kennel Club in 1909.

How the Skye Terrier got to Scotland no one knows, Legend is that a Maltese and a Poodle were shipwrecked on the Isle of Skye. Around the time the Spanish Armada met its doom.

All the terriers from Scotland are their descendants, during Queen Elizabeth's reign. It is a matter of record that her successor, James I, wrote to Edinburgh to ask that 6 Terriers from Argyllshire be sent to France as a present. Not only that, he also directed they be sent on two or more ships for fear of shipwreck, regarding them as valuable. The name 'Sierra' is a Latin word for Terrier, which means earth. These breeds were, in the old days, called "earth dogs" because when chasing Rabbits they burrowed deep into their holes, an expression known to hunters as "going to earth."

The Westie was also known as the Pittenweem, Roseneath or Poltallock Terrier. A 1839 picture owned by Sir Edward Landseer showed two dogs one a bloodhound and the other a West Highland White. (Roseneath was the estate name of the Duke of Argyll from whom James 1st had requested the 'Earth doggies').

It is the Malcolm family that is usually credited with originating the 'White Cairn' as it was known those days. In 1909 at the Westminster Kennel Club in New York City a West highland white was shown under the classification of Roseneath Terriers.

The small white dog that we know today as the "Westie" actually owes its rise in popularity to a hunting accident. It is said that around the year 1860, Colonel Malcolm was out hunting with his favorite terrier, a reddish-brown dog. While the dog was running through the bush, he was mistaken for a hare and was shot and killed. The Colonel was so grieved by the loss of his dog that he decided to propagate only the whites in his kennel. It took a great many years for the Malcolm family to develop the white strain that we know today.

Original Westies
Eleven Westies among the first pure white, Bred by the Malcolm family
in the late nineteenth century, pose for the camera

Breeding of the West Highland White Terrier was not, however, confined to the efforts of Colonel Malcolm. Dr. Flaxman of Fifeshire also played a part in the early development of the breed. He had a Scottish Terrier that whelped white puppies in every litter. After about 10 years, Dr. Flaxman produced a strain of these white Scottish Terriers. Another breeder, George Clarke, developed a white variety known as the Roseneath Terrier.

The show development of the Westie lagged somewhat behind its development as a ground hunter. In England, the first dog show having a classification for terriers was held in Birmingham in 1860. The first Scottish show that included terriers was held in 1871 in Glasgow. In 1899, at the Crystal Palace, a white Scottish Terrier was among the winners and at the same show, Dr. Flaxman entered a team of his dogs. The first show where West Highland White Terriers were classified separately was in 1904 at the Scottish Kennel Club Show at Edinburgh.

The West Highland White Terrier Club of America was formed and admitted to the AKC in 1909.

To learn more visit The West Highland White Owners Web Site

Monumental move in fight to save Skye terrier

Greyfriars Bobby and friends. Picture: Neil Hanna

Found this wee article in the Scotsman Online and thought I'd copy it here for you to read...

A statue of the Skye terrier – the breed of Greyfriars Bobby fame – is to be unveiled today on the island as part of a bid to save its kind from extinction.

With only about 3,000 of the native Scots dog left around the world, they are as rare as the tiger and red panda.

The Skye Terriers Club commissioned the statue with the aim of raising awareness of the under-threat terrier, the oldest Scottish breed.

Princess Anne will do the honours at Armadale Castle.

Gail Marshall, secretary of the Scottish branch of the club, said: “We are really struggling.

“Only between 30 to 40 puppies are born each year around the globe, and a worldwide effort is being made to save the breed.”

She added: “Once there was a Skye terrier on every close, but that is no longer the case.”

It is Scotland’s oldest terrier breed, going back to the 14th century. Queen Victoria kept Skye terriers.

Monument unveiled by Princess Anne



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