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Origin of the Scottish Terrier

By Ian Southwick

Written for the Scottish Terrier Club 50th Anniversary Souvenir Book, 1987.

 

“As with all breeds of any antiquity, the origin of the Scottish Terrier is unknown. All that is known is that in the Western Highlands of Scotland and the Islands of the Hebrides there existed a terrier on short legs with a rough coat.”

This was the opinion of W. L. McCandlish, expressed in 1909 in “The Scottish Terrier and West Highland White Terrier”. When this book was re-written some 20 years later by Mrs. D. S. Caspersz she repeated Mr. McCandlish’s opening paragraph. However, by 1956 Mrs. Caspersz had changed her mind and stated, "..... that the Scottish Terrier descends directly from a race of small terriers of great antiquity. there is no shadow of doubt.” Unfortunately, this claim is not substantiated.

It was not until 1879 that the breed reached the show bench in recognisable type that we accept today as a Scottish Terrier. The Kennel Club held a show at Alexandra Palace, London, in 1879 with classes for the breed resulting in thirteen entries. The judge was Mr. I. B. Morrison of Greenock, who had devoted much study to the breed and was responsible with Mr. Thompson Gray and others for the first standard of the breed ever published.

Mr. Paynton Pigott won first and second in both dogs and bitches. D. J. Thompson Gray reported in “The Dogs of Scotland”, published in 1891 — “Pig was again amongst the number, and it is worth noting that “Splinter” a bitch bred by Mr. Gordon Murray, by “Comar” ex “Thimble” — reputed Skyes — took second prize in her class, and I believe is the dam of such well known Scottish Terriers as “Bitters”, “Rambler” and “Worry”. From this date — 1879, the Scottish Terrier, Skye Terrier and Paisley Terrier parted company, to their mutual advantage..

According to Dorothy Caspersz’s Scottish Terrier Pedigrees (1934),  Rambler and Worry produced Ch. Dundee the first Scottish Terrier  Champion. However, Thompson Gray writing some 45 years earlier said  Dundee was out of an unnamed bitch bought from McGregors. Later  in the same book (page 47) he showed him as being by Dunotter out of  Glenorcby.

At this time the Skye Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont were already well established on the show bench, the Cairn Terrier and the West Highland White gained official recognition at a later date.

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Which Terrier was the Scottish Terrier?

When it was first proposed that the Scottie should be given the official title of Scottish Terrier the owners of the Skyes, Cairns and West Highland Whites immediately protested that their breeds were the correct type of Scottish Terrier. This discussion was revived in 1910 when the Cairn Terrier came up for recognition. At Crufts Show in the spring of 1908 there were two classes for “Short Haired Skyes” judged by Mr. Robert Leighton. The dogs shown were from Ardrishaig on Loch Fyne and were shown by Mrs. Alaistair Campbell. Their names were Doran Bhan, Roy Mohr and Cuileaa Bhan and became famous Cairns. After the judging a meeting of the Skye Terrier Club was summoned and many protests were made.

The President of the Skye Terrier Club, Isabel Aberdeen, suggested the name Cairn Skye Terrier or Cairn Terriers of Skye in order to indicate their place of origin. However the committee of the Kennel Club decided “that the breed hitherto described as ‘Short Haired Skye Terriers’ shall only be registered as Cairn Terriers"

Just how confusing the situation was, can be seen from a passage in “The Dogs of Scotland”. Before 1874 we have no authoritative particulars regarding any of the Terriers of Scotland except the Dandie Dinmont and the Skye and for ten years previous to this date classes were given at shows for those two breeds alone . . . Previous to 1879 the type of Terrier now recognised as the Scottish Terrier was comparatively unknown . . . To the initiated the whole matter is CLEAR.

The dog which is being sought to establish as the Scottish Terrier is the Highland or Cairn Terrier, known in some parts as the Short Haired Skye. For some years before the commencement of this dispute we had these terriers from Mr. MacDonald of Dunvegan in Skye. They are known in Skye as a pure Skye Terrier. Tom Homer comments in his book “Terriers of the World — their history and characteristics”, that perhaps not everyone has the same conception of the word clear!

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A visit to Sir Paynton Pigott

Robert Leighton in “The Complete Book of the Dog” published in 1922 says:—

“It was from the old Cairn Terrier that the modem Scottish Terrier evolved. This statement is a truism. The chain of descent is complete in every link. I remember many years ago visiting the late Sir Paynton Pigott at his home in Norwich. In the course of a conversation about dogs, my host produced for my examination the well mounted head and neck of his long dead terrier Granite. The dog’s coat was a light brindle, and the shape of the head was foxy, with a fine short muzzle, tiny pricked ears, and a rather small skull. I identified Granite as a Cairn Terrier. Sir Paynton Pigott acquiesced; but proceeded to inform me that in actuality Granite had the distinction of being the first ‘Scottish Terrier’ ever entered at a Kennel Club Show. He was the individual forerunner of the modern Scottish Terrier and the lineal ancestor of Ch. Heworth Rascal. Sir Paynton further produced a volume of the “Live Stock Journal” for 1879 and turned to a laudatory review of his kennel, illustrated with a woodcut portrait of Granite, drawn by that good artist Burton Barber.

The picture presented a dog with a beautiful  body, very good legs, a well carried tail and a head exactly similar to the one in the glass case. The body was almost as long as that of a Skye Terrier. Granite was unquestionably a Scottish Terrier, even as we know the breed today, longer in the back than we care for, shorter in the head, and more snipey in the jaw, but a genuine Scottish Terrier. And yet Sir Paynton Pigott explained that the dog’s pedigree went back to a strain of Highland Cairn Terriers bred in the neighbourhood of Dunvegan in the Isle of Skye.”

To add further confusion Cairn Terriers and White Scottish Terriers or White West Highland Terriers or West Highland White Terriers were inter&SHYbred until November 18, 1924. The registration of such progeny closed as from December 31, 1924. Up to this time the white progeny of Cairn and West Highland White Crosses were accepted as West Highland Whites while the darker members of the same litter were accepted as Cairns. According to Tom Homer, it is also known that the grandsire of an early West Highland White Champion was a Champion Scottish Terrier. Precisely the same pedigree is said to have been borne by a  winning Cairn!

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 The White Scottish Terrier or West Highland White

The White Scottish Terrier or West Highland White Terrier was bred by the Malcolms of Poltalloch from at least 1800, and they were first shown at Edinburgh as Poltalloch Terriers. According to Robert Leighton they were “to be found all along the West Coast of Scotland, good specimens belonging to Ross-Shire, to Skye, and Ballachulish on Loch Leven”. The white colour of the Malcolms’ Terriers is questioned by B. W. Powlett who wrote in 1909:— “The fact is, giving preference to white coats is a modern innovation. White coats were actually looked upon with disfavour at Poltalloch in the time of the present owner’s (Col. E. D. Malcolm) father and the keepers used to put them down, or possibly give them to friends. Very few of the right sort ever changed hands. The most probable reason, however is that Mr. Cohn Young and a few others made up their minds to collect the lightest coloured specimens they could find, and gradually, by selection, breed them white.”

Amongst the first Whites to be exhibited in any numbers were the White Scottish Terriers of Dr. Flaxman. These were a mixture of the Scottie and West Highland Breeds and were certainly more dead white than almost any of the West Highlanders on the bench at the present time. Early photo&SHYgraphs of Dr. Flaxman’s Pittenweem Miss Tich, Pittenweem Nipper and Pittenweem Bessie, described as Roseneath or White Scottish Terriers in G. G. Dennis’s photographic record of the West Highland White Terrier since 1899, are recognisable as the Scottish Terrier of today, while the photographs of Col. Malcolm with his terriers shows them as West Highland White types.

Perhaps Col. Malcolm saw the first West Highland White Champion  Morven, owned by Mr. Colin Young, as a Scottish Terrier type when he judged him at the Kennel Club show and dismissed him without a card.  His photograph would certainly suggest he was closer to the Scottish Terrier.  Col. Malcolm was at lengths to protect the type of his own strain as  Mr. McCandhish reports:— “Writing recently Col. Malcolm of Poltalloch has endeavoured to  imply that outside blood was introduced to obtain the existing type of Scottish Terrier, and that the original Terrier was of the type of the White West Highlander. As this variety is less well-known, and as Col. Malcolm may fear that the type of his own strain may be lost in the type of the more popular variety, it is justifiable that he should insist on the purity and antiquity of the Terrier that for so long bore the name of his property.”

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The Skye Terrier

Fortunately there is no similar claim made for the long-haired short-legged terrier, known to show goers as the Skye Terrier. These dogs of the Western Isles would seem to have been kept in general by the lairds and their families and were probably described by Dr. Caius in the sixteenth century as dogs “which by reason of the length of their heare make show neither of face nor of body.” They were admired by Queen Victoria who always had specimens of the breed from 1842 onwards. It would seem that the only similarity to the Scottish Terrier was that they have both been known as the Skye Terrier.

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Scottish Terriers in Fifeshire

So far all the reports of Scottish Terriers have been from the West of Scotland and the purchase of the dam of Ch. Dundee from near to the Bridge of Orchy in Argyll. However about 1900 James Robertson published “Historical Sketches of the Scottish Terrier”, in which he described Scotch Terrier Dogs from the East of Fifeshire. He was a resident of St. Andrews. As he was associated with the exhibition of Scottish Terriers and had seen and examined by his own account some sixty famous early Scottish Terriers we would accept that his following description of the terriers in East Fife is a description of early Scottish Terriers:

“Early in the fifties I was initiated into the love of a Scotch Terrier Dog — I mean the old fashioned ‘Sandy’. At that time my father took me to see a kennel of twenty that were kept by an old man at one of my father’s properties adjoining my grandfather’s killing house in the East of Fifeshire. These terriers were principally used for ratting purposes. These terriers were all small — say about 12 lbs. and game killers. They were principally of a wheaten or sandy colour, of the smartest possible contour. Several were not ‘hard haired’ but that was of minor importance when rodent killing was their special purpose. I have been informed that the same class of small terriers were exten&SHYsively used by my forefathers in the butchering business in the East and Fife in the latter part of the last and the beginning of the present century.”

Above is a picture of Scotch Terriers at work, reproduced from an original in the author’s possession. The dogs depicted are described as “Scotch Terriers at work on a cairn in the West Highlands”, signed “James Robertson 1835” and are Scottish Terrier Type. This picture has been reproduced in books on the breed by Ewing, Marvin, and Penn-Bull.

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The Aberdeen Terrier

Since the earliest days of the Scottish Terrier he has also been called the Aberdeen Terrier. The name is still often used.

Dorothy Gabriel wrote, “From the latter name (Aberdeen) it is fairly obvious that they originated in or near that town.” She is the only writer to make this assertion.

Mr. Adamson was an early Scottish Terrier exhibitor from Aberdeen and a founder of the SCOTCH TERRIER CLUB. Some writers suggest that he with Dr. Van Best developed the Aberdeen Terrier by crossbreeding. When there were Scottish Terriers as close by as St. Andrews this seems unlikely and very probably the Aberdeen Terrier was a Scottish Terrier.

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Miss Penn-Bull’s opinion

Miss Penn-Bull in her recent book on the Scottish Terrier “The Kennel-garth Scottish Terrier Book (1983) concludes from her review of the existing literature on the origin of the Scottish Terrier:

"....That there is evidence that a small, shaggy, low to ground terrier was prevalent in Scotland for a great many years, and that he was recognised as a distinct breed peculiar to that country. But he differed considerably from the Scottish Terrier of the present day and some of the characteristics which are strongly pronounced today were originally far less marked. The breeds which by selective breeding sprang from the original rough-haired terriers of Scotland are the Scottish Terrier, the Skye Terrier, the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, the Cairn Terrier and the West Highland White Terrier."

The relationship of the Dandie Dinmont to the “Scottish Terriers” is not clear as it was known as a type in 1814 when Sir Walter Scott published “Guy Mannering”. If he was derived from the old rough-haired Scotch Terrier it would seem more likely to be by a cross rather than by selective breeding. This cross mating is proposed by Thompson Gray in “The Dogs of Scotland”. However apart from the Dandie Dinmont, Miss Penn-Bull’s state&SHYment on the evolution of the Scottish Terrier type as we know it would seem to be apposite.

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 BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Scottish Terrier — Edward Ash — L. Cassel, 1936
The Scottish Terrier — William A. Bruette — G. Howard Watt, 1934
The Scottish Terrier — Holland Buckley — Dog World
The Scottish Terrier — Dorothy S. Caspersz — Our Dogs, Manchester
The Scottish Terrier — Dorothy S. Caspersz — Our Dogs 1937, Manchester
The Scottish Terrier — MacDonald Daly, Findon Publication
The Book of the Scottish Terrier, Fayette C. Ewing
Orange Judd Publishing Company Inc. New York, 1932
The Dogs of Scotland — D. J. Thompson Gray
James Mathew & Co. Dundee, 1891
The Scottish Terrier — Dorothy Gabriel — Dog World, Bradford With a Chapter on Cairns by Kate L. Stephen
The Scottish Terrier — Lee, 1894
The Scottish Terrier and West Highland White Terrier — B. W. Powlett,
W. L. McCandlish — Our Dogs, Manchester, 1909 Historical Sketches of the Scottish Terrier
James Robertson — Moorland Mount, Leeds about 1900
The Kennelgarth Scottish Terrier Book — Miss B. Penn Bull
Saiga Publishing Co. Limited, 1983
Scottish Terrier Pedigrees — Dorothy S. Caspersz — Higgs & Co., 1934 The Complete Book of the Dog — Robert Leighton — Cassell & Co. Limited, 1922
The Cairn Terrier Handbook — T. W. L. Caspersz, Dog Lovers Library, Nicholson and Watson, 1957
 The Popular Cairn Terrier — J. W. H. Beynon and Alex Fisher, M.B.E. Popular Dogs, 1961
 The Cairn Terrier — Florence M. Ross — Our Dogs, Manchester, 1926 The West Highland White Terrier — Holland Buckley
Illustrated Kennel News Co. Limited, 1911
West Highland White Terrier Club (of England) — A photographic record since 1899 — G. B. Dennis
Terriers of the World — their history and characteristics — Tom Homer Faber and Faber, 1984

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