The Scottish Terrier Dog Breed: All You Need to Know

The Scottish Terrier is a cute-looking, popular dog and one of the oldest breeds native to Britain. Known for its fearless, spirited, and independent nature, the Scottie has won the hearts of dog lovers all over the world. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the history, physical characteristics, personality, and health of the Scottish Terrier breed.

The History of the Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier originated in Scotland alongside four other terriers – Cairn, Skye, West Highland White, and Dandie Dinmont. The breed’s origins can be traced back to the 15th century, when they were used to hunt small game, like foxes, badgers, and rodents.

Origins of the Breed

The Scottish Terrier was developed in Scotland by crossing several small terrier breeds. It was specifically bred to hunt vermin and small game.

Scottish Terriers were highly valued for their hunting abilities and helped Scottish farmers protect their crops from pests. They were also popular among the nation’s aristocracy, who kept them as pets and hunting companions.

Over time, the breed’s popularity spread beyond Scotland, and Scottish Terriers were exported to other countries, including the United States. Today, the Scottish Terrier is a beloved breed around the world, known for its loyalty, intelligence, and distinctive appearance.

The Scottish Terrier’s Role in History

The Scottish Terrier has a rich history and has been a favorite breed of many influential people, including several US Presidents and Queen Victoria. Franklin D. Roosevelt was particularly fond of Scottish Terriers and owned several during his Presidency.

During World War I and II, Scottish Terriers served as mascots for the army and were even used as messenger dogs. Their small size and agility made them well-suited for this role, and they were highly valued for their bravery and loyalty.

Scottish Terriers have also been featured in works of literature, including Sir Walter Scott’s novel “Waverley”, and J.M. Barrie’s play “The Admirable Crichton”.

Famous Scottish Terriers in Pop Culture

The Scottish Terrier has also had a significant presence in popular culture. One of the most famous Scotties was Fala, who served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s companion during his Presidency. Fala was so popular that it was given its own press secretary and was even featured in a movie with its owner.

Other famous Scottish Terriers include Jock from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp and Barney, George W. Bush’s dog during his Presidency. Jock was known for his loyalty to Lady and his gruff Scottish accent, while Barney was famous for his mischievous personality and love of playing fetch.

Today, Scottish Terriers continue to be popular pets and are known for their affectionate nature and playful personalities. Whether as hunting companions, loyal pets, or beloved pop culture icons, Scottish Terriers have left an indelible mark on history and continue to capture the hearts of people around the world.

Physical Characteristics of the Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier is a small, sturdy, and compact breed with a distinctive appearance and features. The wiry coat, dense eyebrows, and mustache are some of the breed’s hallmarks. 

Size and Weight

Female Scottish Terriers weigh between 18 and 21 pounds, and males between 19 and 22. The height standard for both genders is around 10 inches.

Despite their small size, Scotties are muscular and have a robust bone structure. This makes them well-suited for their original purpose as hunters, allowing them to navigate through rough terrain and dig into burrows to catch their prey.

Scottish Terriers are also known for their short legs, which give them a low center of gravity and allow them to move quickly and nimbly. Therefore, they can easily maneuver around obstacles and keep up with prey.

Coat and Colors

The Scottish Terrier is known for its thick, wiry coat that needs regular grooming and trimming. This is because the coat is designed to protect from the harsh Scottish weather, which can be cold and wet. 

Regular grooming helps to keep their coat in good condition and prevent it from becoming matted or tangled.

The breed comes in several colors, including black, wheaten, and brindle (black, red, or silver). Their coat is often darker on the back and lighter on the belly, for camouflage purposes.

Distinctive Features

Scottish Terriers have several distinctive features that make them stand out from other breeds. One of them is the long, pointed ears, that are set high on the head. They give an alert and attentive expression.

Other distinctive features are the signature beard and eyebrows. These seem dignified and regal-like but actually have a purpose – they protect the face from injuries while hunting. Scottish Terriers also have powerful jaws and strong, straight legs.

Their jaws are designed to grip and hold onto their prey, while their legs are sturdy enough to support their body weight and allow them to move quickly and swiftly.

Personality and Temperament

Scottish Terriers are small but mighty – best known for their independent, stubborn, and extremely loyal personalities. Scotties have a strong sense of self and are not afraid to show it.

They are highly intelligent and curious, always exploring their surroundings and eager to learn new things. Despite their independent streak, Scottish Terriers are incredibly loyal to their owners.

Scottish Terriers form strong bonds with their families and will do anything to protect them. They are also famous for their courage and tenacity, which makes them excellent watchdogs.

General Temperament

Scottish Terriers are a breed that is full of personality. They are known for their spunky, feisty attitudes and are always up for a good adventure. They are also highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of living situations, from apartments to large homes with yards.

These dogs are also quite playful and enjoy spending time with their families. They have an unusual sense of humor and can often be found entertaining their owners with their silly antics.

Interaction with Children and Other Pets

When it comes to children, Scottish Terriers can be great companions if they are socialized from a young age. They are patient and gentle with kids, but they can be quite protective of them as well.

However, due to their independent nature, Scottish Terriers can be wary of other dogs and may not get along with other pets (especially smaller ones). It is important to socialize them early and introduce them to other animals slowly and carefully.

Training and Socialization

Scottish Terriers are a breed that requires early socialization and training to prevent them from becoming overly stubborn. They respond best to positive reinforcement training methods and require a firm and consistent hand when it comes to discipline.

It is also important to provide them with plenty of mental and physical stimulation, as they are a breed that loves to be active and engaged. Regular exercise, playtime, and training sessions can help keep them happy and healthy.

With proper socialization and training, they can be loyal and devoted pets that will bring joy and laughter to any household.

Health and Lifespan

Scottish Terriers are generally healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they are prone to certain health conditions.

Common Health Issues

Common health issues in the Scottish Terrier are: 

  • von Willebrand Disease (vWD): A blood clotting disorder caused by a lack of protein vital for clotting (the so-called von Willebrand factor).
  • Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO): A genetic condition affecting the head and jaw bones. Typically it develops when Scotties are still young puppies.  
  • Scottie Cramp: Hereditary condition manifesting with an inability to walk. It results from a lack of serotonin and miscommunication between the brain and the muscles. 
  • Patellar Luxation: An orthopedic condition in which the kneecap pops out of its normal place resulting in pain and impaired mobility. 
  • Eye Problems: The breed is at a higher than average risk of eye conditions, with glaucoma and cataracts being the most widespread. 
  • Cancer: Scotties are susceptible to the bladder and lower urinary tract cancers. Melanomas, gastric carcinomas, and lymphosarcomas are also common. 

Lifespan Expectancy

The average lifespan of a Scottish Terrier is between 11-13 years, although with proper care and regular veterinary checkups, some dogs can live longer.

Tips for a Healthy Scottish Terrier

To ensure the health and longevity of your Scottish Terrier, it’s important to provide them with a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and routine veterinary care. 

Regular grooming, including brushing and trimming their coat, can also help keep them healthy and happy.


The Scottish Terrier is a unique and beloved breed that has captured the hearts of dog lovers worldwide. 

By understanding their history, physical characteristics, personality, and health, you can make an informed decision about whether the Scottish Terrier is the right breed for you. 

With proper care and attention, these loyal and independent dogs make wonderful companions for years to come.

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