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George, the fourth earl of Dumbarton, referred to them as “Little Die-hards” for their bravery. Where did the Scottish Terrier originate from, and is this adorable yet aristocratic dog for you?


The history of the Scottish Terrier, otherwise known as the Aberdeen Terrier, is not clear. It is known to be one of the oldest Highland Terriers, and was initially classed under the generic grouping of “Skye Terriers”, which has caused some confusion in it’s exact lineage. There are disagreements as to whether the Skye Terriers mentioned in the 16th century are direct descendents of the Scottish terrier, or vice versa. It is certain that Scottish Terriers are closely related to West Highland Terriers. The Scottie’s origin is said to date back to 55BC, when Romans invaded Britain. Pliny the Elder wrote “They found, much to their surprise, small dogs that would follow their quarry to the ground.” The Romans referred to these dogs as “ terrarii”, which is derived from the Latin word, “terra” for earth, and literally means “workers of the earth”.

The Scottish Terrier was originally bred to hunt and kill vermin on farms, and hunt badgers and foxes in the Scottish Highlands. Like other terriers, they love to dig, and they were bred with strong tails, so that their owners could pull them out of holes they had dug to catch moles and vermin.


Don Leslie’s book “The History Of Scotland 1436-1561” describes dogs of a similar description to the Scottish Terrier. Sir Joshua Reynolds painted a portrait of a young girl holding a dog very similar to a Scottish Terrier, two hundred years later. In the 17th century, King James VI of Scotland became James I of England, and sent six terriers, thought to be ancestors to the present day Scottie, to a French monarch as a gift.

During the 1800’s Scotland’s terriers were divided into two groups: the Dandie Dinmont Terriers and the Skye Terriers, a fairly generic name given to all the terriers that came from the Isle of Skye. At the end of the 19th century, the Skye Terriers had been broken up into the breeds we know today, namely: The Scottish Terrier, Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Terrier and Skye Terrier.

The modern Scottish Terrier is true to it’s original function. It loves to dig (it can dig its way out of the most secure garden if it sets its mind to it) and it enjoys chasing small animals. It is territorial, alert and self-assured. It has an independent nature, and is sensitive to praise and blame, but needs a firm hand from an early age, or it will try to run the household if left to its own devices. It is aloof with strangers, but can be aggressive with other dogs, unless socialised at an early age, and can show aggression towards toddlers and small children who don’t know not to pull and prod. It is loyal, but tends to bond to one or two people in the family.

The Scottie is full of energy! It’s intelligence and drive needs to be channelled in the right direction or it will grow bored and destructive, and though it’s short legs are not conducive to jogging, it loves a walk around the block. Though not a yapper, a Scottie will bark at strangers, and so noise regulations in your area of residence is important to remember. Scotties love water, but don’t swim very well, so it would be worth your while investing in a pool net if you have an uncovered swimming pool.


Scottish Terriers are small yet resilient and stocky dogs. Males and females tend to both reach an average height (at the shoulder) of 25cm (10 inches), and 28cm (11 inches) from shoulder to tail. Males weigh, on average, 8.5 – 10kg (19 – 22 pounds), and females between 8 – 10kg (18 – 22 pounds).

The Scottie’s coat has a wiry, long and weather-resistant outer coat, and a soft, dense under coat. Traditionally, the beard, eyebrows, legs and lower body are kept long, and the head, tail and back are trimmed short. It does shed lightly, and regular trims are advised as well as a weekly brush. Coat colours range from dark grey to black, and while wheaten Scotties are known to occur, they should not be confused with the West Highland Terrier.
When it comes to health, there are certain conditions that Scotties are more prone to than other pure-bred dogs. These include certain cancers such as: Bladder Cancer, Intestinal cancer, malignant melanomas, gastric carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, mast cell tumours and hemangiosarcoma.
Von Willebrands Disease is an inherited disorder that affects the blood’s ability to clot. The main symptom is excessive bleeding after surgery or an injury. Other symptoms can include bleeding in the stomach or intestines, bleeding gums, and nosebleeds. The only current treatment is a blood transfusion from a donor with normal blood. Dogs with this condition can lead normal lives, but should not be bred. Only buy a puppy from a litter where both parents are free of von Willebrands disease.

Scottie Cramp is considered to be harmless as the symptoms occur only when the dog is stressed or over stimulated. The dog will arch its spine, overflex the rear legs, and the front legs may move outward from side to side. Dogs that are severely stressed may have trouble walking or running. Treatment is not necessary, but in severe cases, Vitamin E, Diazepam or Prozac may be prescribed.
Patella Luxation or dislocation of the kneecap often affects the hind legs, and can be crippling. The only treatment is surgery.

Craniomandibular osteopathy is a disease that affects certain skull bones in puppies. While the puppy is still growing (symptoms usually occur between four and eight months of age), the skull bones become abnormally enlarged. Often the puppy’s jaw and glands will become swollen, and it will not be able to open its mouth and will salivate excessively with fluctuating fevers. In some cases the muscles in the jaw may atrophy, and in severe cases, a feeding tube may need to be inserted. There is no treatment other than anti-inflammatories and pain medication to ease the immediate symptoms. The irregular bone growth slows and usually stops by the time the puppy reaches one year of age, and the lesions can regress. A few dogs have had permanent problems with eating.
The average lifespan for a Scottie is 11 – 13 years.

If you feel the Scottish Terrier might fit in with your family and your lifestyle, seek a reputable breeder, and ask to see both parents before buying a puppy.




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