At first glance, the West Highland White and Scottish terriers display certain similarities. They share the same ancestry, as short-legged terriers from Scotland, but have been differentiated through breeding over the centuries. After studying their appearance, origin and behavior, you can see why Westies and Scotties are classified as separate breeds.
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Always white, Westies have a dense undercoat and a coarse outer coat with straight fur about 2 inches long and uniform in length. They have black lips, noses and eye rims. The American Kennel Club specifies that Westies should stand 10 to 11 inches tall from shoulder to ground and weigh between 15 and 20 pounds. Westies have round heads with wide-set, erect, pointed ears. Their heads are large compared to their bodies with small, tapered muzzles, and the legs are on the short side. Their tails are short, tapered and stand at attention.
The American Kennel Club recognizes three colors for Scotties -- black, brindle or wheaten (off-white). Scotties have thick, wiry, shaggy fur with a soft undercoat. Scotties are trimmed to achieve their characteristic smooth body, shaggy legs, scruffy eyebrows and long beard. Ideally these dogs are 10 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 18 and 22 pounds. The Scottie's head is narrow, the muzzle is long, and his body is considerably longer than his legs, with a short, erect tail.
The Scot Col. Edward Donald Malcolm, of Poltalloch in Argyllshire, is credited with breeding the first truly white Westies, originally dubbed the Poltalloch terrier. Legend has it he chose the color white because red Westies could be too easily mistaken for foxes and accidentally killed, notes the West Highland White Terrier Club of America. In 1909, they were officially classified as the West Highland white terrier. They're referred to as "all terrier" because of their strong gaming instinct.
The Scottish terrier was unknown outside Scotland until the 1870s, when Capt. W.W. Mackie brought them to England. The modern Scottish terrier is the result of J. H. Ludlow's work breeding these dogs in the late 1800s. He founded the Scottish Terrier Club of England, and bred or owned many of the breed's earliest champions. The Scottie arrived in the U.S. in the 1890s. Their purpose through the centuries was to kill pest animals on farms.
Westies are strong and energetic. They tend to be willful, possibly even stubborn, so obedience training from a young age is key. They're curious and playful dogs well suited to activity training with their owners such as agility and earthdog trials -- terrier hunt tests. Westies are constantly on the move, so they do well with active families. They don't seek out fights with other dogs but will stand their ground when challenged.
Gentle-natured, intelligent dogs, Scotties do well in a family setting. They're boisterous dogs that require plenty of exercise. In general, Scotties are good with people but may be aggressive toward other dogs. Obedience training is recommended for the independent Scottie. Their chase instinct is strong, and they'll hunt small animals when given the chance. Scotties enjoy engaging in agility, flyball, earthdog trials and other activities with their owners.
By Madeline Masters
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the West Highland White Terrier
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Scottish Terrier
West Highland White Terrier Club of America: Brief History of the Westie
Scottish Terrier Club of America: An Introduction to the Scottie
Canadian West Highland White Terrier Club: The Westie
West Highland White Terrier Club of America: West Highland White Terrier Online Profiler
Scottish Terrier Club of America: The Origin of the Scottish Terrier
Westie Foundation of America, Inc: Welcome Fellow Westie Fancier!
About the Author
Madeline Masters works as a dog walker and professional writer. In the past she has worked as a fitness columnist, fundraising copywriter and news reporter. Masters won two Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Awards in 2009. She graduated from Elizabethtown College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.