Man, being a hunting animal, kills the otter for his skin, and the badger also; the fox he kills because the animal likes lamb and game to eat. Man, being unable to deal in the course of a morning with the rocks under and between which his quarry harbours, makes use of the small dog which will go underground, to which the French name terrier has been attached.

Towards the end of the reign of James the First of England and Sixth of Scotland, we find him writing to Edinburgh to have half a dozen “earth dogges or terrieres” sent carefully to France as a present, and he directs that they be got from Argyll, and sent over in two or more ships lest they should get harm by the way. That was roughly three hundred years ago, and the King most probably would not have so highly valued a newly-invented strain as he evidently did value the “terrieres” from Argyll. We may take it then that in 1600 the Argyllshire terriers were considered to be the best in Scotland, and likely enough too, seeing the almost boundless opportunities the county gives for the work of the “earth dogges.”

But men kept their dogs in the evil pre-show days for work and not for points, and mighty indifferent were they whether an ear cocked up or lay flat to the cheek, whether the tail was exactly of fancy length, or how high to a hair's breadth it stood. These things are sine qua non on the modern show bench, but were not thought of in the cruel, hard fighting days of old.

In those days two things—and two things only—were imperatively necessary: pluck and capacity to get at the quarry. This entailed that the body in which the pluck was enshrined must be small and most active, to get at the innermost recesses of the lair, and that the body must be protected by the best possible teeth and jaws for fighting, on a strong and rather long neck and directed by a most capable brain. It is held that feet turned out a little are better for scrambling up rocks than perfectly straight Fox-terrier like feet. In addition, it was useful to have your dog of a colour easy to see when in motion, though no great weight was laid upon that point, as in the days before newspapers and trains men's eyes were good, as a rule. Still, the quantity of white in the existing terriers all through the west coast of Scotland shows that it must have been rather a favoured colour.

White West Highland Terriers were kept at Poltalloch sixty years ago, and so they were first shown as Poltalloch Terriers. Yet although they were kept in their purest strain in Argyllshire, they are still to be found all along the west coast of Scotland, good specimens belonging to Ross-shire, to Skye, and at Ballachulish on Loch Leven, so that it is a breed with a long pedigree and not an invented breed of the present day. Emphatically, they are not simply white coloured Scottish Terriers, and it is an error to judge them on Scottish Terrier lines. They are smaller than the average Scottie, more “foxy” in general conformation—straight limbed, rather long, rather low, and active in body, with a broad forehead, light muzzle and underjaw, and a bright, small intelligent eye. Colonel Malcolm, of Poltalloch, who is recognised as the great authority on the breed, lays stress upon the quality of the coat. “The outer coat,” he says, “should be very soft on the forehead and get gradually harder towards the haunches, but the harsh coat beloved of the show bench is all nonsense, and is the easiest thing in the world to 'fake,' as anyone can try who will dip his own hair into the now fashionable 'anturic' baths. The outer coat should be distinctly long, but not long in the 'fancy' or show sense. Still, it should be long enough to hang as a thatch over the soft, woolly real coat of the animal and keep it dry so that a good shake or two will throw off most of the water; while the under coat should be so thick and naturally oily that the dog can swim through a fair-sized river and not get wet, or be able to sit out through a drenching rain guarding something of his master's and be none the worse. This under coat I, at least, have never seen a judge look for, but for the working terrier it is most important. The size of the dog is perhaps best indicated by weight. The dog should not weigh more than 18 lb., nor the bitch more than 16 lb.

“There is among judges, I find—with all respect I say it—an undue regard for weight and what is called strength, also for grooming, which means brushing or plucking out all the long hair to gratify the judge. One might as well judge of Sandow's strength, not by his performances, but by the kind of wax he puts on his moustache!

“The West Highland Terrier of the old sort—I do not, of course, speak of bench dogs—earned their living following fox, badger, or otter wherever these went underground, between, over, or under rocks that no man could get at to move, and some of such size that a hundred men could not move them. (And oh! the beauty of their note when they came across the right scent!) I want my readers to understand this, and not to think of a Highland fox-cairn as if it were an English fox-earth dug in sand; nor of badger work as if it were a question of locating the badger and then digging him out. No; the badger makes his home amongst rocks, the small ones perhaps two or three tons in weight, and probably he has his 'hinner end' against one of three or four hundred tons—no digging him out—and, moreover, the passages between the rocks must be taken as they are; no scratching them a little wider. So if your dog's ribs are a trifle too big he may crush one or two through the narrow slit and then stick. He will never be able to pull himself back—at least, until starvation has so reduced him that he will probably be unable, if set free, to win (as we say in Scotland) his way back to the open.

“I remember a tale of one of my father's terriers who got so lost. The keepers went daily to the cairn hoping against hope. At last one day a pair of bright eyes were seen at the bottom of a hole. They did not disappear when the dog's name was called. A brilliant idea seized one of the keepers. The dog evidently could not get up, so a rabbit skin was folded into a small parcel round a stone and let down by a string. The dog at once seized the situation—and the skin—held on, was drawn up, and fainted on reaching the mouth of the hole. He was carried home tenderly and nursed; he recovered.”

Referring to the characteristics of this terrier, Colonel Malcolm continues:—“Attention to breeding as to colour has undoubtedly increased the whiteness, but, other points being good, a dog of the West Highland White Terrier breed is not to be rejected if he shows his descent by a slight degree of pale red or yellow on his back or his ears. I know an old Argyllshire family who consider that to improve their terriers they ought all to have browny yellow ears. Neither again, except for the show bench, is there the slightest objection to half drop ears—i.e., the points of one or both ears just falling over.

“Unfortunately, the show bench has a great tendency to spoil all breeds from too much attention being given to what is evident—and ears are grand things for judges to pin their faith to; also, they greatly admire a fine long face and what is called—but wrongly called—a strong jaw, meaning by that an ugly, heavy face. I have often pointed out that the tiger, the cat, the otter, all animals remarkable for their strength of jaw, have exceedingly short faces, but their bite is cruelly hard. And what, again, could be daintier than the face of a fox?

“The terrier of the West Highlands of Scotland has come down to the present day, built on what I may perhaps call the fox lines, and it is a type evolved by work—hard and deadly dangerous work. It is only of late years that dogs have been bred for show. The so-called 'Scottish' Terrier, which at present rules the roost, dates from 1879 as a show dog.

“I therefore earnestly hope that no fancy will arise about these dogs which will make them less hardy, less wise, less companionable, less active, or less desperate fighters underground than they are at present. A young dog that I gave to a keeper got its stomach torn open in a fight. It came out of the cairn to its master to be helped. He put the entrails back to the best of his ability, and then the dog slipped out of his hands to finish the fight, and forced the fox out into the open! That is the spirit of the breed; but, alas, that cannot be exhibited on the show bench. They do say that a keeper of mine, when chaffed by the 'fancy' about the baby faces of his 'lot,' was driven to ask, 'Well, can any of you gentlemen oblige me with a cat, and I'll show you?' I did not hear him say it, so it may only be a tale.

“Anyhow, I have in my kennel a dog who, at ten months old, met a vixen fox as she was bolting out of her cairn, and he at once caught her by the throat, stuck to her till the pack came up, and then on till she was killed. In the course of one month his wounds were healed, and he had two other classical fights, one with a cat and the other with a dog fox. Not bad for a pup with a 'baby face?'

“I trust my readers understand that the West Highland White Terriers are not White Aberdeens, not a new invention, but have a most respectable ancestry of their own. I add the formal list of points, but this is the work of show bench experts—and it will be seen from what I have written that I do not agree with them on certain particulars. There should be feather to a fair degree on the tail, but if experts will not allow it, put rosin on your hands and pull the hair out—and the rosin will win your prize. The eye should not be sunk, which gives the sulky look of the 'Scotch' Terrier, but should be full and bright, and the expression friendly and confiding. The skull should not be narrow anywhere. It is almost impossible to get black nails in a dog of pure breed and the black soon wears off the pad work, so folk must understand this. On two occasions recently I have shown dogs, acknowledged, as dogs, to be quite first class, 'but, you see, they are not the proper type.' The judges unfortunately have as yet their eyes filled with the 'Scottish' terrier type and prefer mongrels that show it to the real 'Simon Pure.'“

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STANDARD OF POINTS: The GENERAL APPEARANCE of the West Highland White Terrier is that of a small, game, hardy-looking terrier, possessed with no small amount of self-esteem, with a “varminty" appearance, strongly built, deep in chest and back ribs, straight back and powerful quarters, on muscular legs and exhibiting in a marked degree a great combination of strength and activity. COLOUR—White. COAT—Very important, and seldom seen to perfection; must be double-coated. The outer coat consists of hard hair, about 2-1/2 inches long, and free from any curl. The under coat, which resembles fur, is short, soft, and close. Open coats are objectionable. SIZE—Dogs to weigh from 14 to 18 lb., and bitches from 12 to 16 lb., and measure from 8 to 12 inches at the shoulder. SKULL—Should not be too narrow, being in proportion to his powerful jaw, proportionately long, slightly domed, and gradually tapering to the eyes, between which there should be a slight indentation or stop. Eyebrows heavy. The hair on the skull to be from 3/4 to 1 inch long, and fairly hard. EYES—Widely set apart, medium in size, dark hazel in colour, slightly sunk in the head, sharp and intelligent, which, looking from under the heavy eyebrows, give a piercing look. Full eyes, and also light-coloured eyes, are very objectionable. MUZZLE—Should be powerful, proportionate in length, and should gradually taper towards the nose, which should be fairly wide, and should not project forward beyond the upper jaw. The jaws level and powerful, and teeth square or evenly met, well set, and large for the size of the dog. The nose and roof of mouth should be distinctly black in colour. EARS—Small, carried erect or semi-erect, but never drop, and should be carried tightly up. The semi-erect ear should drop nicely over at the tips, the break being about three-quarters up the ear, and both forms of ears should terminate in a sharp point. The hair on them should be short, smooth (velvety), and they should not be cut. The ears should be free from any fringe at the top. Round, pointed, broad and large ears are very objectionable, also ears too heavily covered with hair. NECK—Muscular, and nicely set on sloping shoulders. CHEST—Very deep, with breadth in proportion to the size of the dog. BODY—Compact, straight back, ribs deep and well arched in the upper half of rib, presenting a flattish side appearance. Loins broad and strong. Hind-quarters strong, muscular, and wide across the top. LEGS AND FEET—Both fore and hind legs should be short and muscular. The shoulder blades should be comparatively broad, and well-sloped backwards. The points of the shoulder blades should be closely knit into the backbone, so that very little movement of them should be noticeable when the dog is walking. The elbow should be close in to the body both when moving or standing, thus causing the fore-leg to be well placed in under the shoulder. The fore-legs should be straight and thickly covered with short hard hair. The hind-legs should be short and sinewy. The thighs very muscular and not too wide apart. The hocks bent and well set in under the body, so as to be fairly close to each other either when standing, walking, or running (trotting); and, when standing, the hind-legs, from the point of the hock down to fetlock joint, should be straight or perpendicular and not far apart. The fore-feet are larger than the hind ones, are round, proportionate in size, strong, thickly padded, and covered with short hard hair. The foot must point straight forward. The hind-feet are smaller, not quite as round as fore-feet, and thickly padded. The under surface of the pads of feet and all the nails should be distinctly black in colour. Hocks too much bent (cow hocks) detract from the general appearance. Straight hocks are weak. Both kinds are undesirable, and should be guarded against. TAIL—Six or seven inches long, covered with hard hairs, no feathers, as straight as possible; carried gaily, but not curled over back. A long tail is objectionable. MOVEMENT—Should be free, straight, and easy all round. In front, the leg should be freely extended forward by the shoulder. The hind movement should be free, strong, and close. The hocks should be freely flexed and drawn close in under the body, so that, when moving off the foot, the body is thrown or pushed forward with some force. Stiff, stilty movement behind is very objectionable.

FAULTS: COAT—Any silkiness, wave, or tendency to curl is a serious blemish, as is also an open coat. Black or grey hairs disqualify for competition. SIZE—Any specimens under the minimum, or above the maximum weight, are objectionable. EYES—Full or light coloured. EARS—Round-pointed, drop, broad and large, or too heavily covered with hair. MUZZLE—Either under or over shot, and defective teeth.

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