The Breed

The Origin of the Scottish Terrier; C. Graham print email

The earliest origin of the Scottish Terrier will always be something of a mystery. The principal source of historical knowledge is found in religious works, literary fragments, and available drawings and paintings. The antiquity of the breed's ancestry is unassailable, however. Known by many names, the "Scotch Terrier" has been native to Scotland for several hundred years. It is believed that the original stock was brought in by the Celts, and probably the $candinavians. The Norsemen had been ruling the Hebrides and adjacent islands long before the Norman conquest, and there are records of the terriers which they brought with them. The Scottish, the Skye, the West Highland White, and the Cairn are all likely decendants of a common breed native to the Scottish soifand of Norse descent.

One of the earliest references to these game little dogs was by John Leslie, the Bishop of Ross, who wrote a history of Scotland covering the period 1436 to 1561 and in it mentioned a dog of low .stature being used to "go to ground" to kill or drive out the wild cats, foxes, otter, and other vermin.

You may well ask how the Scottish Terrier, a dog so individual in ap­pearance and characteristics, and so interestingly unique, developed. The western part of the Scottish Highlands and the Hebrides Islands are the localities which gave it birth. Different localities produced modifications of type, and to this we owe the Scottish, Cairn, West Highland White, and Skye terriers. All of them had a common origin, however, and all of these Highland terriers were alike in fundamentals. Some were longer in back, some were higher behind. Some had prick ears; some had drop. Some were short-faced; some were long. There were many colors, but all had in common the fact that they were lively as crickets and V"ery game. They had to be, for they came from a land in which the weak do not endure. As travel was a difficult undertaking, there was little opportunity for an in­termingling of strains; therefore, the different rough-coated working terrier types evolved. The type that produced the Scottish Terrier is thought to have been found in the Blackmount region of Perthshire, the moor of Rannoch, and surrounding districts. Judging from drawings of these early Highland dogs, that type of Scottie was somewhat the same as those we see today.

The reason Scotland has produced so many terriers is that, although the land has a limited area, it presents a variety of environments. It has its Highlands, its Lowlands, and its Eastern Coast. The Highlands are a land of smooth rock, with a shoreline seared by the seas into a thousand inlets. Floods and storms have plowed the mountains into vales and glens. Here live the stern, sport-loving Scotsmen, a clannish folk, who have simple habits and who are devoted to the things they call their own. This land and its people have produced from early canine history, a race of sturdy terriers adapted by nature and environment to face .the hardships of life in a rough and storm-swept country. The various strains of Highland terriers have always been the pride of their owners.

In early times, each district had its official "todhunter" or gamekeeper.

It was his duty to wage an eternal war of extermination on the badger, the fox, the otter, and all vermin. He was, of necessity, accompanied by his "tyke," a small, rugged terrier, active enough to keep on the move all day long over rough country, and courageous enough to follow a fox into its den and drive it out or kill it. The dogs were picked for their gameness rather than for their looks. They were cherished for their splendid working qualities and were bred with that alone in mind. No record of lineage was maintained, and the sole criterion of type was adaptability to the work at hand. However, because of the nature of the work and because the smallest, gamest, and toughest dogs were bred from a type did evolve-our beloved Scottish Terrier, sometimes referred to quite appropriately as the "Diehard. "

Modern Scottish Terrier history can be said to have its origins in the kennels of Mr. J. H. Ludlow, who founded the Scottish Terrier Club of England, and who bred or owned many of the breed's earliest champions. He owned the famous dog, Bonaccord, and the bitch, Splinter II. Bonaccord sired Rambler, often referred to as the "pillar of modern pedigrees." Rambler, in turn, sired Ch. Alister, the first black-coated winner of note, and Ch. Dundee. Every modern-day Scottish Terrier traces its descent, in the male line, from one or the other of these two famous half brothers and grandsons of Bonaccord. Bonaccord was also the grandsire of Ch. Kildee, the most famous show winner of his time. Kildee traced back to Splinter II in everyline. Splinter II is called the "mother of the breed," as most of the present-day Scotties trace back to her.


This article by Claribel Graham appeared in previous STCA handbooks.