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Scottish Pet Breeds - Terriers, Collies, Sheepdogs, Scottish Fold Cats

No website about Scotland would be complete without mention of the famous terrier and collie dog breeds that have worked hard in Scotland for hundreds of years and now give us so much pleasure and love as family pets.

We've provided a very brief history and decription of the various terrier and collie breeds, plus some information on the Golden Retriever, first bred in Scotland. Scotland's only unique cat breed, the lovely Scottish Fold, is included also.

Scottish Terrier

A Terrier threesomeThe little black Scottie is an icon of Scotland, and deservedly so for it is believed the breed goes back hundreds of years in Scotland's history. Originally named the Aberdeen Terrier, the Scottie was bred in a specific area of Scotland for specific purposes. Fiercely loyal and fiercely independent, the Scottie will guard his family (including his own cat), while displaying tremendous courage and determination in chasing off intruders.

Not all Scotties are black; wheaten and brindle are also acceptable to the standard. Standing about 10 inches high at the shoulder, the sturdy Scottie weighs between 18 and 22 pounds. While small, he is nevertheless an outdoor dog and requires plenty of fresh air and exercise. Scotties are healthy dogs and with proper care should have no problems.

Care for your new Scottish terrier - A New Owner's Guide to Scottish Terriers - A 5-star guide for those new to raising Scotties.

West Highland White Terrier

Westies are currently enjoying enormous popularity here in America. That's no wonder, since they are absolutely adorable. Bred from mixed terrier working dogs found in the highlands for at least 300 hundreds years, the first "showing" of the breed was in 1904, though several varieties had been bred before that time. The distinction of the breed, naturally, is that they are white (with little black noses).

Originally, the Westies, like all the terriers, were working dogs, used especially in hunting fox and badger. Presently, many are also used as herding dogs, rounding up the cattle and bringing them in. Small, but tough, strong and energetic, they take to their work with zeal and determination.

Westies stand about 11 inches with a tail 5 to 6 inches long. Smart, teachable and companionable, the Westies' temperament makes them excellent pets.

Care for your West Highland White Terrier - The Essential West Highland White Terrier. Definitely an "essential" book for new Westies owners.

Border Terrier

Various breeds of terrier have existed in the Border region of Scotland and England for hundreds of years. Relatives of the present day Border Terrier breed include the Dandie Dinmonts (bred and loved by Sir Walter Scott).

After consideration of several local names, the name "Border Terrier" was established for this breed in 1870, and the breed was registered in America in 1930. Border terriers sport a dense coat in a variety of colors - red, wheaten, grizzle and tan, or blue and tan. White patches on a puppy's chest will disappear with time, but an adult dog should show no white.

While bred as working dogs originally, Border Terriers make excellent house dogs and are especially good with children. However, any tendency toward fighting other dogs must be nipped in the bud at a very early age, and hunting, too, if you don't want them chasing. Slightly taller than other terriers, they weigh a bit less, being wiry and strong.

Care for your Border Terrier - The Border Terrier. Short-haired and cute as a bug's ear - learn all about this border breed.

Skye Terrier

The Isle of Skye to the west of Scotland bred working terriers, as did all Scotland, to hunt the fox, otter, badger and other "vermin" detrimental to the farm and lands. Over time, the Scots bred these terriers not only for intelligence and hardiness, but for their weather-resisting coats, able to shed the constant rains.

The Skye's are long-haired terriers (their cousins, the Cairn Terriers, were once known as "short-haired Skyes"), known by name in the highlands since the 16th century. Much later, Queen Victoria admired and kept Skyes, greatly increasing their popularity outside the highlands.

Skye Terriers come in several colors, steel-grey being a favorite, but all noses must be black (apparently, at one time, several of the terrier breeds were afflicted with pink noses). They are slightly larger than other terriers, weighing about 25 pounds. Hardy and healthy, Skye's are "one-person" dogs, loving, loyal, and extremely patient. It would hard to find a better companion or sporting dog.

Care for your Skye Terrier - Skye Terrier : A Complete and Reliable Handbook

Cairn Terrier

Cairns are ancient stone piles, under which early inhabitants were buried, scattered all over Scotland and by the seashores. The terriers were bred to sniff out and hunt the otters and other creatures making their homes there. Bred in the highlands, there are pictures of Cairn terriers from as early as the 15th century looking much as they do today. Later, the West Highland Whites became an off-shoot breed of the Cairn.

Curious, lively, and extremely bright, Cairns make excellent family dogs. One of their best traits is an ability to stay home alone without acting up or showing resentment.

Care for your Cairn Terrier - The Cairn Terrier. A 5-star guide to the Cairn Terrier, great photos, too.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shelties are the most ancient of Scottish island breeds, tracing their ancestry through the mainland working collies and Icelandic dogs brought by the Vikings. Known in the past as "Toonies" from the word toon, meaning farm, Shelties were an all purpose working dog - minding children, shooing hens, herding sheep. For centuries, they have been "part of the family" - a status they expect and take for granted.

The standards for Shelties are very similar to rough collies, though in miniature. Height ranges from 12 to 16 inches and Shelties come in a wide variety of beautiful colors - all with white markings. Like collies, they also come in tri-color and blue merle, with additionally a rare black and tan without white markings. (Legend says a black-and-tan King Charles Spaniel was once left on the islands and bred into the line.)

Shelties are extremely popular dogs and for good reasons. They combine all the best qualities of a collie (extraordinary loyalty and intelligence) with a smaller size. Shelties are good with children, if trained from a young age, but their ultimate loyalty will always be to their master or mistress.

Care for your Shetland Sheepdog - The Complete Shetland Sheepdog. Shelties are one of the most popular breeds in America today.


Collies come in two varieties - rough and smooth. The rough collie is our image of a collie, Lassie. Smooth collies are short-haired and, unless you were in the know, you could pass one in the park and not realize it's a collie. Other than the short hair, though, smooth collies share the characteristics (including coloring) of the rough collie.

Scotland is the birthplace of the rough collie, and they were bred as a super intelligent working sheep dog. The ancient meaning of the word "collie" is debatable, but possibly from the anglo-saxon word for "black" either referring to their original color or the black-faced sheep they guarded. Chaucer mentions "Coll, our dogge" in the same line in which he refers also to an ancient breed of hound, placing collies in England in the 14th century.

Our collie, Rascal, is a sable and white - beautifully rich colors ranging from gold to auburn to warm brown, with the standard collie white markings on legs, tail, forehead, and, of course, his collar and chest. Collies come also in tri-color (black with tan markings) and blue merle (silvery blue with black patches), both also with white markings.

Collies are extraordinarily affectionate and loyal, being bred to guard and protect. Collies are large dogs with small dog temperaments - wholly dependent on human love and companionship. Unfortunately, at 70-90 pounds, such affection can knock over a six-year-old without even trying. Discipline and training are important to help collies manage their size. Collies make wonderful family dogs, but as large, working dogs they need plenty of room to run and play.

Care for your Collie - Rough and Smooth Collies
Complete breed guide to owning both rough and smooth collies.

Bearded Collies

Large and shaggy-haired sheepdogs originated centuries ago in Europe. It is recorded that in the 1514, a Polish sailor trading in Scotland exchanged two Polish Lowland Sheepdog females and one male for a Scottish ewe and ram. Of course, they were bred with existing Scottish sheepdogs. In the past, two distinct strains were recognized - the Border and the Highland, now interbred into today's Bearded Collies.

Beardies have for centuries been working sheepdogs, intelligent and swift. Most are born black, turning grey later, but there are also fawn and brown Beardies. In appearance, they resemble English sheepdogs, rather than collies. Height ranges from 20 to 22 inches, and Beardies are considered large dogs.

Like the other collies, Beardies are affectionate with children and loyal to their masters, making them excellent family dogs. Again, as a working breed, Beardies require lots of exercise and outdoor time.

Care for your Bearded Collie - Bearded Collie : A Complete and Reliable Handbook. What's not to love about beardies?

Border Collies

The border between Scotland and England is home to many famous dog breeds. Border collies have been known by several names, most practically as working collies and farm collies. One of the most intelligent breeds, they are considered the best sheep-herding dogs in the world.

Like collies, Border Collies come in rough and smooth varieties and in the same range of colors. They stand from 18 to 22 inches in height. Bred not only for intelligence, but stamina and strength, Border Collies can run for miles without tiring and adequate exercise is absolutely necessary.

These are still primarily working dogs, so care and training is required for them to be exceptional family pets. The herding instinct is strong and they will "herd" children, sometimes nipping at their heels. Border collies can make excellent guard dogs.

Care for your Border Collie - The Ultimate Border Collie. Excellent reviews for this book about the popular Border Collie breed.

A final note on the terrier and collie breeds

All of the dog breeds discussed above are hardy, energetic working dogs. Even though many of the terriers are small, adequate exercise and outdoor time are essential. In our opinion, none of the collies, except the Shelties, are suitable at all for apartment living.

In addition, all these dogs were bred to withstand the rigors of Scotland's weather. They sport weather-resistant double coats. Our collie can frolic in the snow all day long, but when June arrives, he is on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor. The terriers require a great deal of combing and can be groomed to withstand higher temperatures, but the larger breeds really do have a hard time in the heat. Please keep your location and circumstances in mind when selecting a pet.

Golden Retrievers

Originally bred in the 1860s by border Scotsman Lord Tweedmouth from existing retriever and water-spaniel breeds, the Golden Retriever has become one of our most beloved family pets. Goldens may be gold or cream (cream is acceptable in show dogs only in Britain), but have no hint of darker color. Generally healthy dogs, they are powerfully built and very sturdy, standing about two feet high at the withers, but their most appealing features are their dark, devoted eyes.

As game retrieving working dogs, Goldens are very intelligent, easy to train, and love the water! Their devotion to humans, gentleness, and non-aggressive natures make Golden Retrievers an absolutely top choice for family pet.

Care for your Golden Retriever - Golden Retrievers for Dummies. Don't be put off by the "Dummies" series - this is the best-selling manual on Golden Retrievers and for good reason.

Scotland's Unique Cat Breed - the Scottish Fold

Our two cats (good old American Shorthairs) rule us, the children, and the collie. But we love cats and were excited to learn about one of the most delightful cat breeds, and the only one unique to Scotland, the Scottish fold.

Discovered in 1961 and bred from one momma cat named Susie, the Scottish Fold is characterized by ears that fold forward and down over the head. Since the fold is a genetic mutation based on an incomplete gene, some of the cats will have the fold and some will not. At birth, the kittens all have normal ears and you must wait three or four weeks to see if the ears fold.

The Scottish Fold is a medium-sized, short-haired cat. They are plump, sweet-natured farm cats, well-used to people and animals, making them excellent pets. Straight-ear Scottish Folds are used in breeding, but not for show. This makes the fold-ear cats quite rare and valuable, and only those of proven Scottish lineage may be shown. Obviously, the cats are rather expensive at this point, so you will want to do extensive research before buying so you'll know just what qualities to look for.

Care for your Scottish Fold cat - Guide to Owning a Scottish Fold Cat. Scotland's only pure-bred cat breed, these are beautiful animals.

When purchasing any of these Scottish dog and cat breeds, we recommend you find a reputable dealer and thoroughly question and inspect the treatment of puppies and kittens. Good nutrition and hygiene is of paramount importance in the first few weeks to ensure a happy, healthy pet.