Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Scotties: The Working Dog That Never Was

Scottish Terrier Club of America, 1915

Most people do not know that the Cairn Terrier, the West Highland White and the Scottie were considered the same breed of dog until the last two decades of the 19th Century. As late as 1900 it was said that these three "breeds" could, in fact, be found in the same litter.

Until the last decade of the 19th Century, the term "Scottish terrier" was less of a description of a specific breed of dog than it was a geographical suggestion of where a wide array of dogs was said to originate from.

Within the "Scottish terrier" umbrella, were Cairns, Westies, Skye, and "Aberdeen" terriers. It was this last dog that was transformed into the "Scottie" we know today.

The Scottish Terrier was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1885 and the first "Scottish Terrier Club" was created in England in 1887, and in Scotland in 1888.

Yes, those dates are correct -- the Scottish terrier breed name was recognized in the U.S. before England, and in England before Scotland. Clearly this was a breed made in the ring and not in the ground!

In fact, it was not until 1917 that the Kennel Club of Great Britain prohibited interbreeding between Scotties, Westies and Cairns -- the first step toward true breed recognition.

By 1917 few Scotties were being worked, and for a very simple reason: the dogs were too big.

Today's breed description for the Scottie is of a dog with a chest that is "very deep & broad" -- the exact opposite of what one wants in a working terrier!

Due to large heads, enormous chests, and excessive body weight, many of today's Scotties are born Cesarean. It is hard to imagine a clearer indication of how much show-ring breeders have distorted this dog to the point of ruination.

This post is recycled from February of 2009.


Lisa Paddock said...

One thing, Patrick: It's hard to put into words the character these dogs possess. As one of the breed's luminaries has written, people are attracted to the way Scotties look, but they stay with the breed because of these dogs' great souls. I confess I am addicted--but I am also heartbroken by the steady, perhaps inexorable decline of what once was a diehard little ratter.

Lisa in Cape May County, NJ

PBurns said...

That's how I feel about Border Terriers. As solid a dog, between the ears, as ever existed. Also healthy. Too big for work, and coats as greasy as a wheel axle, but otherwise great dogs.

I salute your side of the Scottie community. It is BECAUSE you love the dogs that you stand for them, unflinching, to talk about their health needs. It is patriotism that you will not stand for pain.

And what are we to say of those who would look the other way? That they do not deserve to ever hold a leash!


Sarah said...

When I was born, there was already a one year old Scottish Terrier bitch living in my parents' house. She died 12 years later in my lap, and I have always loved the look of the breed and the attitude many of them seemed to possess, although I doubt I would ever own one again, especially because of how the breed has changed (and because they just aren't practical on a California farm).

Your post would explain why, when my family went to Scotland we were shown all manner of dogs and told that they were "Scottish Terriers". They looked nothing, and I mean nothing like what we had at home. It seemed to us that they called just about anything with four legs a Scottish Terrier. At the time, we found this quite confusing and chalked it up to being regarded simply as dumb tourists.

angela said...

Scotties are not common where I live ( north east of england ) Though I had the misfortune to meet one when taking my dog to the vet , it was attacking everyone who went past .
Its batty owner came out and screamed at it a few times but didnt stop it. It didnt dare have a go at me though ;)

The Terrier of choice here is the west highland white , and I really do not see the appeal. I have worked as a dog groomer and they are bow legged wooly coated greasy scabby dogs , who fart all the time.
They Are always filthy as their coats soak up any dirt they go near , their thick beards get covered in food , the hair around their eyes gets gunky and their fluffy back ends get covered in crap .
on top of that you have to pay to have them shaved every 8 weeks for their entire life.