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        Judging The West Highland White Terrier
        by Joan Graber


The history of the West Highland White Terrier, as a distinctly named
breed, starts in 1904 with recognition by the Kennel Club.  However,
through an interesting history, the breed dates back to dogs mentioned in
John Lesley's HISTORIE OF SCOTLAND from 1436 to 1561, where there is a
reference to a dog of low height, which, creeping into subterraneous
burrows, routs out foxes, badgers, martens and wild cats from lurking
places and dens.  There also are letters dating to James I of England and
VI of Scotland (1566-1625) in which he writes to Edinburgh asking  to have
a half dozen 'whyte earth dogges or terrieres' from Argylshire sent to the
King of France.

There is plenty of surmise and guesswork regarding the development of
Terriers, but until the beginning 1800's there is little or no written
evidence that many of the Terrier breeds as we know them today had begun to
emerge.  Over the next 40-60 years great changes took place and distinctive
breeds started to appear.  In Scotland the short legged, rough coated
breeds evolved in a variety of forms with the original dogs looking like
something halfway between the modern Skye and Cairn Terriers.  From this
early Scotch Terrier are derived today's  Skye, Scottish, West Highland
White and Cairn Terriers.  This old Scotch terrier is described by Youatt,
in YOUATT ON THE DOG (1845), as generally higher on leg. and smaller than
today's Scottish terrier and quite close in size to the Westie, having a
relatively short, thick head and varying in color from black to white, with
wheatens, and pied and light colors being quite common.

With specific regard to the West Highland White Terrier, we do know that,
aside from the above notation, white colored terriers were mentioned as
early as 1800 by Edwards in CYNOGRAPHIA BRITANNICA.  In 1829 Brown, in
Terriers and wrote " . . . there are two kinds of terriers.  The rough
haired Scotch and the smooth English  . . . The Scotch terrier is generally
low in stature, seldom more than 12-14" in height with a strong muscular
body and short stout legs, his ears small and half pricked, his head rather
large in proportion to the size of his body and the muzzle considerably
pointed  . . . The hair of the terrier is long and matted and hard over
almost every part of his body.  His bite is extremely keen  . . . ".   Bell
in HISTORY OF BRITISH QUADRUPEDS (1837) mentions that " . . . the Scottish
kind of terrier was generally dirty white in color" and Martin in HISTORY
OF THE DOG (1845) said the Scotch variety was short of limb and had a
wire-haired coat of a white or sandy color.   Gray in DOGS OF SCOTLAND
(1891) says "There are no particulars regarding any of the terriers of
Scotland, except the Dandie Dinmont and Skye" and further states "Skye
classes contained a heterogeneous appearance of a variety class and might
more correctly be cataloged 'rough haired Terriers".  He than mentions that
"The Poltallach Terrier has been treated as a distinct breed, but it is
rather a variety of the Scots Terrier of a particular color than a distinct

There is pictorial evidence of the breed being strongly defined as early as
the Victorian era as seen in Landseer's painting of "Dignity and Impudence"
(1839), (picture # 1) showing a WHWT and his painting  "Waiting", sometimes
called "Highland Dogs" (1839), (picture # 2) depicting a small dog of
light-colored coat, prick ears, black nose.  In Cawder Castle's picture
collection there is a painting by Landseer that looks like it could depict
the original of the small white dog in "Dignity and Impudence".  The story
is that one of the daughters, of the castle,  was a lady in waiting at
Court and this was her dog.   Other art works include Gourlay Steele's
"Dandie Dinmont and His Terriers" (1865) (picture # 3) which shows three
light-colored dogs with Westie characteristics and John Emm's "The
Warrener's Pony and Terrier and Puppy" (1876) ( picture # 4), which shows a
bitch and young pup both with the look of a West Highland. All above
referenced pictures can be found at:

There are no show records of terriers until 1860 when there was a
classification for Scotch Terriers and a class for "white Skye".  In 1863
London offered classes for "white Scotch".  During the late 19th century,
as dog shows became more popular, the white terriers were known by several
different names and may have differed in type from one area to another.
They were exhibited in classes for Scotch Terriers, Hard-coated Terriers,
Hard-haired Scotch Terriers, Poltallochs, Roseneaths ( picture #5),
White Scottish Terriers (Pittenweems), Cairns, little Skyes (picture #6),
etc. until 1904 when they officially became the West Highland White
Terriers, with the formation of the West Highland White Terrier club of
Scotland.   The Malcolms of Poltalloch, in  Argyllshire, are sometimes
credited with developing the breed.  They certainly were among the earliest
proponents of the breed, if not the first, and the 'Poltalloch' terrier was
to go forward as the foundation type of the breed.   This type was
described by a Captain Mackie, around 1891, as follows: "The Poltalloch
Whites weigh from 16-20 lb. with a determined varminty look about them.
They are very active, with a linty-white type of coat, and well-knit
together.  The coat is hard, bristly, from an inch to two and a half inches
in length except on the head and muzzle where it is short, hard and wiry.
The body is between cobby and long but very deep and stands on short, bony
legs, the forelegs nearly straight the hind ones well bent at the hock.
The head is long, nose broad and often flesh- colored, the teeth extremely
large for so small a dog.  The ears are pricked and covered in a short,
velvety coat.  The tail is well-set, slightly curved and carried gaily.
The majority are creamy white, others sandy or white with lemon or cream
marks."  In this description you can see the beginnings of some of the type
requirements of today's West Highland White Terrier.  The picture of Col.
Malcolm's favorite eleven (late 1800's)  further shows the prototype of
today's Westie. (Picture #7)  Pictures #6 & 7 can be found at:

There are notations that dogs of this type were kept on the Malcolms
Argyllshire estate at least since the early 1800's, if not earlier.
Around 1860, the supposed hunting accident happened during which Col.
Malcolm accidently shot one of his favorite sandy-colored terriers, and
from that point on vowed to breed only white ones.  In an article written
by Col. E.D. Malcolm in 1907, he adds to Mackie's description when he
writes "But men kept their dogs in the evil pre- show days for work and not
for points . . . In those days two things - and two things only - were
imperatively necessary: pluck and capacity to get at the quarry.  This
entailed that the body in which the pluck was enshrined, must be small and
most active to get at the innermost recesses of the lair, and that the body
must be protected by the best possible teeth and jaws for fighting, on a
strong and rather long neck and directed by a most capable brain.  It is
held that feet turning out a little are better for scrambling up rocks than
perfectly straight Fox Terrier like feet . . . "   He further says " . . .
the quantity of white in the existing terriers all through the west coast
of Scotland shows that it must have been rather a favored colour . . . "
(picture #8)  and
goes on to say " . . . I have seen good specimens belonging to Ross-shire
to Skye and at Ballachulish on Loch Leven, so that, as it is a breed with a
long pedigree and not an invented breed of the present day, I thought it
right to dissociate it from the name of Poltalloch;   . . .  ".   Thus it
was Col. Malcolm who was influential in the adoption of the name West
Highland White Terrier when the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in
1904.(picture #9)

part 2