Skye and Scottish Terrier

Scottie PostcardScottie Postcard

The historic similarity in construction of these two breeds is why they are considered here together. Bred to work underground, their modern long, low construction reflects the type of work these terriers were originally expected to perform. Today, as two separate pure breeds, this gives an alternative approach to understanding how modern exaggerations now typify both breeds.

History of the Skye and Scottish Terrier

The modern Scottish and Skye Terriers are very different to their working ancestors. In the first English Stud book, name the 'Scotch Terrier' encompassed both the Skye and the Scottish Terrier. In 1879, they split into two different breeds when their respective Breed Standards were written[1].

Skye Terrier 1877Skye Terrier 1877

Here we have examples of a Skye Terrier and a Scottish Terrier depicted just prior to the official separation taking place. The obvious difference was the coat length and texture. In England, the Skye Terrier's coat was initially glamorized when Queen Victoria took a fancy to them. Although his coat has become exaggerated as he developed into a show dog, the length of body initially sought after has been retained.

Scottish Terrier 1877Scottish Terrier 1877

The original purpose of this body length was to give the dog the physical strength to crawl through the badger setts to find them within the rocky surrounds of the Isle of Skye and along jagged coastline of the western part of Scotland. The softer coat allowed the dog to slither through these narrow tunnels.

Scottish Terriers c 1900Scottish Terriers c 1900

The Scottish Terrier on the other hand was developed to work in the softer earths of the hedgerows of Aberdeen on the eastern side Scotland. As this work required great power in small compass, a short very strong body was sought. The harsh double coat helped protect it from any adversaries he may encounter, while the undercoat protected him from the cold. Then, like the development of modern Fox Terrier, over the next century and a half, the coat gradually changed as he developed into the modern Scottish Terrier we know today.

The Legend of Greyfriar's Bobby

Auld Jock with Greyfriars BobbyAuld Jock with Greyfriars Bobby

The legend of Greyfriar's Bobby dates back to 1858 when a penniless Scotman, 'Auld Jock' became well known in Edinburgh. Some sources believe he was a shepherd whilst others believe he was a policeman. But there seems no argument that 'Auld Jock' died in this city. His little terrier 'Bobby' slept on Auld Jock's grave for fourteen years, with nobody or nothing persuading him to leave[2]. This legend has been perpetuated ever since.

Portrait of Greyfriars BobbyPortrait of Greyfriars Bobby

Several stories and films have been set around this fable. Certainly this little dog was made a "Freeman of the City" and wore a collar given to him inscribed: "Greyfriars Bobby. From Lord Provost, 1867. Licensed". It is also believed Greyfriars Bobby became so famous that Queen Victoria was inspired to acquire a Skye Terrier.

Today Bobby's statue stands outside a Hotel named after him in Edinburgh. Firstly he had an unmarked grave in the kirkyard and later the statue was erected at the entrance to this famous graveyard. The statue and the only existing portrait of him that exist depict him as an early type Skye Terrier.

History of the Scottish and Skye Terriers in Australia

'Scotty in Gumnut land''Scotty in Gumnut land'

The Skye Terrier was first imported into Melbourne in 1880 with 29 Skye (Prick-Eared) and three Skyes (Drop-Eared) arriving here by 1911[3]. But they seem to have died out until 1967. Then they quickly left their mark across Australia with the late Maureen Cartilage making a significant contribution under the 'Santlin' prefix[4].

The first 'Scotch' (known today as 'Scottish') Terrier was imported in 1889. Named 'Werfa', owned by R.C.Thorn of Victoria, she is given the credit of establishing the Scottish Terrier in Australia, breeding under the 'Hensby' prefix. Scotties have been in existence here ever since with 188 being imported across Australia during the next 100 years[4].

May Gibbs became famous as one of Australia's best known children's story writers and illustrators. Her iconic gumnut characters, 'Snugglepot' and 'Cuddlepie' drawn here peering down on one of her beloved Scotties, cemented the Scotty into the hearts and minds of many Australian children who grew up during the Second World War years and beyond.

Comparison between the Skye and Scottish Terrier

The basic construction of today's short legged deep-chested terrier is explained in detail by clicking here: short legged dogs with deep chests.

Skye Terrier

Scottish Terrier

Skye TerrierSkye Terrier Scottish TerrierScottish Terrier
General Appearance Long and low; twice as long in length as height at shoulder Thick-set, of suitable size to go to ground, great power and activity in small compass
Temperament One-man dog, distrustful of strangers Bold, but never aggressive
Head Long and powerful, strength not to be sacrificed for extreme length Head long with skull and muzzle of equal length
Skull Moderate width of back skull Long enough to be fairly wide yet retain narrow appearance
Stop Slight Moderate
Muzzle Strong Strong and deep throughout
Eyes Preferably dark brown, medium size and close set Dark brown and almond shaped, set fairly wide apart under eyebrows
Ears Pricked or dropped. When prick not large but gracefully feathered, erect at outer edges with inner edges sloping towards the skull. When dropped laying flat and close at the front Must be pricked. Neat (not large) fine (thin) textured and set on top of the skull not too close together
Mouth Normal scissors bite Normal scissors bite
Skye TerrierSkye Terrier Scottie (Wheaten)Scottie (Wheaten)
Neck Long with a slight crest Moderate length and muscular
Shoulders Broad Broad
Forelegs Short and muscular and work close to the body with the feet required to point straight forwards The forelegs must be well boned and straight right through the pasterns. The forelegs must not be out at elbow nor placed under the body. Instead the elbows work beside but clear of the ribcage
Chest Deep but not excessive. If the chest is too deep, the forelegs would have to bend around it and therefore not point forwards Fairly broad and deep and when viewed in profile, the brisket extending in front of fore legs and hung between them.
Body Long and low with a level back. Sides appear flat due to the straight falling coat. The ribcage is long with the ribs well rounded but flattening out towards the chest. The topline of the back is short, straight and level with a muscular deep loin.
Hindquarters Well muscled and angulated. Legs short muscular and straight when viewed from behind, with no dewclaws. Remarkably powerful for the size of the dog with big wide buttocks. Hocks short and strong neither turning in or out.
Feet Front feet larger than the hind and pointing forwards. Pads thick and nails strong. Front feet slightly larger than the hind, with thick pads and well arched toes.
Tail At rest, the upper part hangs pendulous with the lower parting pointing backwards, away from the dog in a curve. When moving the tail is carried as an extension of the topline, but not above. Of moderate length to balance the dog but never docked. Thick at the root and tapering towards the tip. Set high leaving the topline in either a vertical or a somewhat forward position.
Skye TerrierSkye Terrier Scotty (Black)Scotty (Black)
Gait Free, active and effortless giving a fluid look. Smooth and free, moving straight fore and aft with a level topline.
Coat Double coat with a short, close and woolly undercoat and an outer coat of reasonable length lying straight and flat, free from curl, and never impeding action. Coat on head shorter, never obscuring either the vision or the shape of the ears. Close lying double coat with a short dense soft undercoat and a dense and wiry outer coat, thatched together to make a weather resisting jacket.
Colour Black, dark or light grey, fawn or cream, all with black points Black, wheaten or brindle of any shade
Size 25 - 26 cm (10 inches). Tip of nose to end of tail 105 cms (41.5 inches). Bitches slightly smaller Height: 25 - 28 cm (10 - 11 inches) Weight: 8.5 - 10.5 Kg (19 - 23 pounds)

References and Further Reading

[1] Captain W Wilmer and R Leighton 'The Skye Terrier' Cassell's New Book of the Dog' by Robert Leighton assisted by eminent authorities on the various breeds Published by The Waverley Book Co Ltd Vol 111, Chapter XLIII Page 407

[2] Look and Learn No 277  6th May 1967 Pub Fleetway Publications Ltd., London Page 34

[3] T.W.Tyzack and C.S. Turner "Tyzack's Annual" published by the Victorian Poultry and Kennel Club, printed by Bellmaine Bros., Printers 66 - 70 Flinders Lane Melbourne Australia P. 75 - 78 (Stud Book) and P.97 and 99 (Importations)

[4] Betty McIntyre ''The History of Purebred Dogs in Australia' published by OzDog Newspaper 1997 - the Scottish Terrier Page 269, Helen McGregor Skye Terrier Page 278

Jane Harvey DVD 'Terriers Then & Now' Pub 2002 - 2004 Rangeaire Vision ISBN 978-0-9804296-4-0


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