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The West Highland White Terrier or "Westie" as they are affectionately known, is a member of the small group of Scottish National Breeds which includes the Scottish Terrier and also the Cairn, from which the Westie originated. Until the early years of the 19th Century Terriers tended to be dark in colour. It was not unknown for hunters to mistake a brown terrier for a fox and shoot it. This is exactly what happened early in the 19th century when Col. Malcolm of Poltalloch shot one of his favourite brown terriers and after this tragic accident started keeping the lightest coloured puppies in his litters. These white terriers were used to control vermin, including foxes and hares. Early names for the breed were Poltalloch, Roseneath and White Scottish Terrier. They became known as the West Highland White Terrier in the first decade of the 20th century.


Westies generally live long lives, average being 12 - 15 years, however older dogs are not unusual.


Westies possess the classic terrier temperament; they are active, alert, game and full of self importance. They are not a dog that needs pampering, this hardy breed enjoys scampering in all weathers and will follow its owners just about anywhere. They are extremely faithful but do have a stubborn streak, early training is therefore essential. Barking is a natural behaviour for Terrier Breeds and the Westie is no exception. Of course not all dogs vocalise to the same degree. Generally Westies bark only when they must but when they do they make themselves heard.

As the Westie was bred to be an earth dog it can be a great digger if not taught at an early age that they must not dig in your favourite flower bed.

Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE: Strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs; level back and powerful quarters on muscular legs and exhibiting in a marked degree a great combination of strength and activity.

CHARACTERISTICS: Small, active, game, hardy, possessed of no small amount of self-esteem with a varminty appearance.

TEMPERAMENT: Alert, gay, courageous, self reliant but friendly.

HEAD & SKULL: Skull slightly domed; when handled across forehead presents a smooth contour. Tapering very slightly from skull at level of ears to eyes. Distance from occiput to eyes slightly greater than length of foreface. Head thickly coated with hair, and carried at right angle or less, to axis of neck. Head not to be carried in extended position. Foreface gradually tapering from eye to muzzle. Distinct stop formed by heavy, bony ridges immediately above and slightly overhanging eye, and slight indentation between eyes. Foreface not dished nor falling away quickly below eyes, where it is well made up. Jaws strong and level. Nose black and fairly large, forming smooth contour with rest of muzzle. Nose not projecting forward.

EYES: Set wide apart, medium in size, not full, as dark as possible. Slightly sunk in head, sharp and intelligent, which, looking from under heavy eyebrows, impart a piercing look. Light coloured eyes highly undesirable.

EARS: Small, erect and carried firmly, terminating in sharp point, set neither too wide nor too close. Hair short and smooth (velvety), should not be cut. Free from any fringe at top. Round-pointed, broad, large or thick ears or too heavily coated with hair most undesirable.

MOUTH: As broad between the canine teeth as is consistent with the varminty expression required. Teeth large for size of dog, with regular scissor bite, i.e. Upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square to the jaws.

NECK: Sufficiently long to allow proper set on of head required, muscular and gradually thickening towards base allowing neck to merge into nicely sloping shoulders.

FOREQUARTERS: Shoulders sloping backwards. Shoulder blades broad and lying close to the chest wall. Shoulder joint placed forward, elbows well in, allowing foreleg to move freely, parallel to axis of body. Forelegs short and muscular, straight and thickly covered with short, hard hair.

BODY: Compact. Back level, loins broad and strong. Chest deep and ribs well arched in upper half presenting a flattish side appearance. Back ribs of considerable depth and distance from last rib to quarters as short as compatible with free movement of body.

HINDQUARTERS: Strong, muscular and wide across top. Legs short, muscular and sinewy. Thighs very muscular and not to wide apart. Hocks bent and well set in under body so as to be fairly close to each other when standing or moving. Straight or weak hocks most under body so as to be fairly close to each other when standing or moving. Straight or weak hocks most undesirable.

FEET: Forefeet larger than hind, round, proportionate in size, strong, thickly padded. Under surface of pads and all nails preferably black.

TAIL: 13-15 cms (5-6 ins) long, covered with harsh hair, no feathering, as straight as possible, carried jauntily, not gay or carried over back. A long tail undesirable, and on no account should tails be docked.

GAIT/MOVEMENT: Free, straight and easy all round. In front legs freely extended forward from the shoulder. Hind movement free, strong and close. Stifle and hocks well flexed and hocks drawn under the body giving drive. Stiff, stilted movement behind and cow hocks highly undesirable.

COAT: Double coated. Outer coat consists of harsh hair, about 5 cms (2ins.) long free from any curl. Undercoat, which resembles fur, short, soft and close. Open coats most undesirable. Skin must appear healthy.


SIZE: Height: approx. 28 cms (11 ins) at withers

FAULTS: Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.

NOTE: Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.