Meet the Breed: The Wonderful, Winsome Westie

The canine embodiment of energy and curiosity, the self-assured West Highland White Terrier will keep you on your toes.

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The appeal of the West Highland White Terrier is undeniable. Its bright white coat, inquisitive face topped with ever-alert ears and friendly personality have made it a worldwide favorite. An ideal size even for very small homes, the Westie bounces with joie de vivre.

The West Highland White Terrier’s lively and intelligent temperament – sometimes stubborn but always devoted – leads breeder Jane Kabel of Wisbech, Great Britain, to describe the breed as naughty but nice. “Their piercing dark eyes look at you full of mischief through the rough white hair that covers their faces,” Kabel says. “They smile at you, but you can see that they are thinking of what to do next.”

Scottish roots
Accounts of hunting with packs of terriers in Britain can be found in literature as early as the 17th century, and in the 18th century, a more exact description of one type of terrier was found in the book Field Sports: “Rough and short-legged, long-backed, very strong, normally black-and-tan in colour or yellowish.” Later, writers describing the terriers of Scotland give hints of the forebears of the breeds we have today: short-legged and long-backed (Skye and Dandie Dinmont Terriers), long foreface (Scottish Terrier), white or sandy-colored coat (West Highland White Terrier and Cairn Terrier).

During the 19th and 20th centuries, the various terrier breeds of Scotland were developed and refined from these types, sizes and colors, and all of them descended from the hunting terriers that were found everywhere in the Scottish Highlands and on the coast.

From tragedy, a breed is born
Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm (1837 to 1930) is credited with developing the white terrier that became known as the West Highland White Terrier. The Colonel was the 16th Laird of Poltalloch, and owned Duntrune Castle as well as Poltalloch Estate on the west coast of Scotland. The story is told that one of his brown terriers was mistaken for a fox during a hunt and shot. Malcolm vowed to work only with white dogs for their greater visibility. White and light-colored terriers already existed, but they were not popular. Malcolm began to breed them selectively, and they became known as Poltalloch Terriers. The first Poltallochs were described as rough-haired and yellowish or sandy in color.

 

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