West Highland White Terriers Origins and history
Three Pittenweem Terriers, photographed in 1899
Scottish white terriers were recorded as early as during the reign of James VI of Scotland, who reigned between 1567 and 1625. The king ordered that a dozen terriers be procured from Argyll to be presented to the Kingdom of France as a gift. Sandy and brindle coloured dogs were seen as hardier than those of other colours, and white dogs were seen as being weak. At various times during the breed’s existence, it has been considered a white offshoot of both the Scottish Terrier and the Cairn Terrier breeds.
There were also reports of a ship from the Spanish Armada being wrecked on the island of Skye in 1588. This ship carried white Spanish dogs, whose descendants were kept distinct from other breeds by Clan Donald, including the families of the Chiefs. Other families on Skye preserved both white and sandy coloured dogs. One such family was the Clan MacLeod, and it was reported by their descendants that at least two Chiefs kept white terriers, including “The Wicked Man” Norman MacLeod, and his grandson Norman who became Chief after his death.
George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, bred a breed of white Scottish terriers known as the “Roseneath Terrier”. Another breed of white Scottish terriers also appeared at this point, with Dr. Americ Edwin Flaxman from Fife developing his line of “Pittenweem Terriers” out of a female Scottish Terrier which produced white offspring. The dog seemed to produce these white puppies regardless of the sire to which it was bred, and after drowning over twenty of these offspring, he came upon the theory that it was an ancient trait of the Scottish Terrier that was trying to re-appear. He rededicated his breeding program to produce white Scottish Terriers with the aim of restoring it to the same stature as the dark coloured breed. Flaxman is credited with classes being added to dog shows for white Scottish Terriers towards the end of the 19th century.
This was quite interesting fact and surprise to us as Darren’s family is the Campbell Clan, so now we know he had something to do with Bella being here! haha no wonder she’s a Daddy’s girl!
A West Highland White Terrier, photographed in 1915
The person most closely associated with developing the modern breed of West Highland White Terrier is Edward Donald Malcolm, 16th Laird of Poltalloch. Malcolm owned terriers used to work game, the story told is that a reddish-brown terrier was mistaken for a fox and shot. Following this Malcolm decided to develop a white terrier breed, which became known as the “Poltalloch Terrier”. The first generation of Poltallochs had sandy coloured coats, and had already developed prick ears which is a trait seen later in the modern breed. It is unknown if the Poltalloch Terriers and Pittenweem Terriers were interbred. In 1903 Malcolm declared that he didn’t want to be known as the creator of the breed and insisted that his breed of white terriers was renamed. The term “West Highland White Terrier” first appears in Otters and Otter Hunting by L.C.R. Cameron, published in 1908.[25
Not your typical travel Blog but we are in Scotland and England tracing our Ancestry.com so we decided to figure out Bella’s as well! Found it interesting to know where she came from. I had always heard the hunting story as the original of White Westies but did not know the other stories that seem to have come before the Malcolm original stories.
The Irish and French love Scotties, closely with English and Scots. You see them all over walking down the street but are more rare in the US. Personally, we of course think they are the best and cutest! But we know those are fighting words so don’t take offense as we are very biased 🙂
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Cat’s aren’t the only ones with 9 lives, as Bellas has proven over and over, she too has them.
Bella was the healthiest, fastest dog on the beach, great White Hunter until tragedy struck and she was picked up in our backyard, in suburbia San Diego, by an owl. It lacerated her shoulders down to the muscle and emergency surgery was required at 4am. She survived the attack with the torn shoulders and recovered nicely Until…..5 months later when she started losing weight, not eating, having major health issues that went on for 45 days. MULTIPLE trips to 5 different vets trying to find out what was wrong with her and No vet could figure it out. We kept asking about the owl attack and they all said no way. Additionally, we had just given her a chicken jerky treats from Costco that said it was Made in the USA but when we looked super closely at the bag, in the back lable tiny tiny print, Made in China DISTRIBUTED in America!
The only two new things in her life was the owl attack and these jerky treats so we will never know if they contributed or caused her health decline but we think they did. Long story, shorter, Bella pretty much died several times in the course of our discovering what was wrong with her, but managed to survive numerous times. We spent well over $18,000 in the next 3yrs stabilizing her and learning thru trial and error what works for her. Final diagnoses was: Addisons disease (body makes no cortisol), Pancreatitis, Diabetes and later, Anemia and Septic arthritis.
MOST dogs with pancreatitis and Anemia die within 90 – 180 days! Bella has completely beat both those diseases and no longer has them. She still has Addisons which we give daily pill and 1x per month shot. Diabetes is 2x per day insulin shots and it did make her go blind with sugar cataracts. Diabetes also gave her a UTI (urinary tract infection) that led her to have septic arthritis which has made her partially crippled.
And yet, Bella is going strong, loving life and loving us and has now become a World Traveler with her very own Blog to chronicle her journey. We had planned our move to Europe for 3yrs and part of what kept us not leaving, was Bella and her health as we didn’t want to bring her with us. And in fact, our trial move over, we made the heart wrenching decision to leave her with best friends. She did great with them, but we suffered tremendously. Returning to California to sell a house, we decided we were going to bring her with us (see posts about bringing a dog to Europe) and she is actually THRIVING in Europe. In fact, we just came from a new English vet and her diabetes blood insulin levels are the BEST they have ever been in 5yrs. So low in fact, we had to reduce her insulin by 3 units as her body is doing so much better with a wonderful organic food we found here, Lily’s Kitchen. Evidently the ingredients are even better than the wild game meats we cooked for her, each meal.
She loves traveling in the car (her rolling condo) and in her new Range Rover buggy; experiencing all our new adventures. We are so excited to go to Scotland to let this little Highland Terrier return to her family roots, as we return to ours!
Keep in touch to witness the Miracle Dog, Bella’s Travels. We are Blessed to have her with us, and know every day is a gift and we intend for her and us to live it to the Max!