The West Highland Terrier originated in Poltalloch, Scotland. They were originally called the Polatalloch Terrier, as well as the Roseneath Terrier. In the mid 19th century, Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm started this breed. The story goes that the Colonel kept a group of light coloured terriers as hunting dogs. One day while on a hunt, a reddish coloured dog strayed from the pack. The unfortunate pup was mistaken for a fox and was shot. At that point the Colonel decided to create a breed of white dogs that would be easy to spot.
The West Highland Terrier (or Westie) is closely related to the Cairn Terrier. Like the Cairn, the Westie was especially useful for controlling populations of badgers, rats, fox, and other small pests. Their popularity grew over time and the breed spread to other parts of the world.
Westies are a small breed, averaging about 7 kilograms in weight and 25 centimetres in height. Half of their body seems to be their tails, which by breed standards should never be docked. These tails can reach 15cm when full grown. Their bodies are small and deep, and their heads are comparatively large.
This breed is known for its white coat. The coat is double layered, with a soft undercoat and a coarser upper layer. Some Westies have coats that are soft on both layers. Grooming is not difficult for this breed and they are not exceptionally heavy shedders. Their coat does have a tendency to get into their eyes and ears, so regular trimming with blunt scissors is usually recommended.
Westies are friendly little dogs that are not difficult to train. They get along well with most people, including children. However, they’re a very spirited breed and have been known to give a cat a good chase from time to time. Even though they’re small they do need a walk or a good romp in the yard every day to stay occupied and happy.
If not properly trained, Westies can develop small dog syndrome. This means they’ll begin to display dominant behaviours and since they’re so small they’re allowed to get away with it. If a large dog tries to herd you or nips at you it’s frightening, but when a dog the size of a Westie does it it’s cute. If allowed to get away with these behaviours, the dog will assume he’s the leader of the pack and misbehave even more.
Westies are prone to several different diseases. Among these are liver disease, chronic hernias, hip problems, and skin problems. Despite these issues they are long-living dogs, usually reaching age 15.
This breed tends to be very self assured when around other dogs. Even so, they will never pick a fight unless they have been very poorly trained. You might not think it, but Westies make very good watchdogs. In order to release excess energy, this breed will bark and dig if not given other diversions.