The West Highland White Terrier, commonly known as the Westie or Westy, is a Scottish breed of dog with a distinctive white coat. The modern breed is descended from a number of breeding programs of white terriers in Scotland prior to the 20th century. Edward Donald Malcolm, 16th Laird of Poltalloch, is credited with the creation of the modern breed from his Poltalloch Terrier, but did not want to be known as such. Other related breeds included George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll's Roseneath Terrier and Dr. Americ Edwin Flaxman's Pittenweem Terriers. The breeds of small white Scottish terriers were given its modern name for the first time in 1908, with recognition by major kennel clubs occurring around the same time.
The breed remains very popular in the UK and is in the top third of all breeds in the USA since the 1960s. It has been featured in television and film including in Hamish Macbeth and in advertising by companies such as Cesar dog food and Scottish whisky Black & White. It is a medium-sized terrier, although with longer legs than other Scottish breeds of terrier. It has a white double coat of fur which fills out the dog's face giving it a rounded appearance. The breed can be good with children, but will not always tolerate rough handling. The Westie is an active breed, but are social with a high prey drive. They are loyal companions who will go to the ends of the Earth to please their masters.
Several breed-specific and non-specific health issues appear in the breed including a condition in young dogs nicknamed "westie jaw" which causes an overgrowth of bone in the jaw of the dog. It is also prone to skin disorders, with a breed-specific condition called Hyperplastic Dermatosis occurring. They are very energetic and need plenty of exercise. Cousin to the "Scotty", the Westie was bred to hunt small rodents at places such as farms. For further information on puppies or novelty items, click here now
HistoryScottish white terriers were recorded as early as during the reign of James VI of Scotland, who reigned between 1567 and 1625. The king ordered that a dozen terriers be procured from Argyll to be presented to the Kingdom of France as a gift. Sandy and brindle coloured dogs were seen as hardier than those of other colours, and white dogs were seen as being weak. At various times during the breed's existence, it has been considered a white offshoot of both the Scottish Terrier and the Cairn Terrier breeds.
There were also reports of a ship from the Spanish Armada being wrecked on the island of Skye in 1588. This ship carried white Spanish dogs, whose descendants were kept distinct from other breeds by Clan Donald, including the families of the Chiefs. Other families on Skye preserved both white and sandy coloured dogs. One such family was the Clan MacLeod, and it was reported by their descendants that at least two Chiefs kept white terriers, including "The Wicked Man" Norman MacLeod, and his grandson Norman who became Chief after his death.
George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, bred a breed of white Scottish terriers known as the "Roseneath Terrier". Another breed of white Scottish terriers also appeared at this point, with Dr. Americ Edwin Flaxman from Fife developing his line of "Pittenweem Terriers" out of a female Scottish Terrier which produced white offspring. The dog seemed to produce these white puppies regardless of the sire to which it was bred, and after drowning over twenty of these offspring, he came upon the theory that it was an ancient trait of the Scottish Terrier that was trying to re-appear. He rededicated his breeding program to produce white Scottish Terriers with the aim of restoring it to the same stature as the dark coloured breed. Flaxman is credited with classes being added to dog shows for white Scottish Terriers towards the end of the 19th centuryThe person most closely associated with developing the modern breed of West Highland White Terrier is Edward Donald Malcolm, 16th Laird of Poltalloch. Malcolm owned terriers used to work game, the story told is that a reddish-brown terrier was mistaken for a fox and shot. Following this Malcolm decided to develop a white terrier breed, which became known as the "Poltalloch Terrier". The first generation of Poltallochs had sandy coloured coats, and had already developed prick ears which is a trait seen later in the modern breed. It is unknown if the Poltalloch Terriers and Pittenweem Terriers were interbred. In 1903 Malcolm declared that he didn't want to be known as the creator of the breed and insisted that his breed of white terriers was renamed. The term "West Highland White Terrier" first appears in Otters and Otter Hunting by L.C.R. Cameron, published in 1908. For further information on puppies or novelty items, click here now
TemperamentThe temperament of the West Highland White Terrier can vary greatly, with some being friendly towards children whilst others prefer solitude. It will not tolerate rough handling such as a child pulling on its ears, and can be both food and toy possessive. Members of the breed are normally independent, assured and self-confident and can make good watchdogs. It is a loyal breed that bonds with its owners, but is often always on the move requiring good exercise (15-30 min). Westies are highly social and are the most friendly and jolly of all the Scottish breeds of terrier.
It is a hardy breed, and can be stubborn leading to issues with training. A Westie may need to have its training refreshed on occasion during its lifetime. Having a typical terrier prey drive, it tends to be highly interested in toys especially chasing balls. It does retain the instincts of an earth-dog, including inquisitive and investigative traits, as well as natural instincts to both bark and dig holes. It is ranked 47th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs.