Wise, brave and sporting, Scottie dogs — more properly known as Scottish Terriers — were once one of Britain's most popular breeds — and they're now making a comeback. Kate Green tells more.
The sturdy Scottish (or Aberdeen) terrier is perhaps the most distinctive of Scotland’s five terrier breeds. They’re beloved of shortbread-tin and handbag designers, royalty — of both the British and Hollywood variety — as well as several US presidents, writers and, of course, Monopoly players.
As are all terriers, they’re assertive — the breed standard describes them as ‘dignified, independent and reserved’, as well as loyal, courageous and highly intelligent — and were originally bred to hunt rats, badgers and foxes.
The American Kennel Club goes so far as to describe the Scottie’s keen expression as ‘varminty’ — a pack owned by the 1st Earl of Dumbarton in the 17th century was known as The Diehards (the Earl later named his regiment after them).
A parade of 41 Scotties made an enchanting sight at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, but numbers have dropped dramatically.
However, having been put on the Kennel Club’s At Watch list in 2019, the Scottie was the ‘top riser’ in the annual puppy-registration statistics this spring, showing a 92% increase with 256 puppies. This is great news; the breed is no longer at risk of dying out.
Til Tovey, chairman of the Scottish Terrier Club of England, reports a glut of enquiries during lockdown and hopes that, now that breeders are able to travel, there will be puppies available this autumn.
She has two, Champion Trackside Flying Scotsman at Charmic (‘JJ’) and his daughter, Scotsman’s Girl (‘Girly’), and says that Scottie advantages include them usually being welcome at hotels and being good guard dogs (‘they only bark when they need to’).
The caveats? Their coats need plenty of care, and while out on walks they’re quite likely to disappear down a rabbit hole. Mrs Tovey adds: ‘I love them for their bold, independent character, but I urge people to only buy them from a registered breeder.’
Eight facts to know about the Scottish Terrier:
1. Scottish terriers were originally working dogs, used to control vermin in the Highlands.
2. Some 40 Scottish terriers led the teams out at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
3. The Scottie’s distinctive black colouring is a 20th-century phenomenon. In the earliest breed standard, written in 1880, Scottie colouring was described as ‘grey, grizzle or brindle’.
4. On both sides of the Atlantic, Scottish terriers peaked in popularity between the World Wars. In 1936, Scotties were the third most popular dog in the USA; President Roosevelt owned a Scottie called Fala from 1940.
5. The board game Monopoly features a Scottie dog as one of its playing pieces. It wasn’t in the original line-up when the game took its current form in 1935, but was added in the 1950s and has since become one of the most popular pieces for players.
6. During the breed’s heyday, Scotties enjoyed a vogue among Hollywood actors, including Shirley Temple, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Humphrey Bogart.
7. Among Scottie-themed adult fiction from that period are the charming ‘Black Rod’ stories of C. B. Poultney, published by Methuen in 1934, describing the adventures of an engaging and energetic black Scottie, Roderick Dhu.
8. Other famous owners have included Queen Victoria, Rudyard Kipling and, more recently, George W. Bush.
Those who grew up with dogs probably already know which breed they want to own, and have done for years.
Naughty dogs come in all shapes and sizes — as do their crimes and misdemeanours.