Lockdown has seen an explosion in dog ownership across Scotland. But while there are hundreds of dog breeds – and more crosses and hybrids popping up by the week – some dogs have a heritage in Scotland going back hundreds of years. Some you will know, some might surprise you, but here are some of our favourite Scottish breeds, as chosen by Alex Burns

Scottish Terrier

THERE can hardly be a dog more closely associated with Scotland than the “Scottie” – the Scottish Terrier. These small, stocky dogs are loved all over the world: adorning Scotty Brand fruit and vegetables; featuring as a longstanding playing piece in the Monopoly board game; and even starring in the Disney animation Lady And The Tramp via the character Jock, a stubborn Scottish Terrier who is one of Lady’s closest friends.

They’ve got friends in high places, too, with famous Scottie owners including Queen Victoria, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Rudyard Kipling, George W Bush and, perhaps most notably, Franklin D Roosevelt, who took his beloved Scottie dog Fala with him almost everywhere he went. The breed was initially trained to hunt badgers but, in 1879, it was brought to the fore by Captain Gordon Murray, who gave it the Scottish Terrier title and developed a careful breeding programme to establish type.


Border Collie

THERE’S some debate about the exact origins of the Border Collie, but it is agreed that the breed began life in the areas around the England/ Scotland border at the end of the 19th century with a sheepdog called Old Hemp considered to be the father of the breed. “Collie” is, of course, the Scots word for sheepdog. Canine psychology professor Stanley Coren famously named Border Collies as the world’s most intelligent dog breed in his 1994 book, so those planning to take them on as a pet will need to ensure they can keep their dog suitably mentally stimulated.


West Highland Terrier

INSTANTLY recognisable to even non-dog lovers, West Highland White Terriers are known for their cheeky personalities and proud appearance. Westies were first developed in Argyll in the 19th century as a white “strain” of the Cairn Terrier.

Cairn breeders had been in the practice of culling any white puppies that were born, but the Malcolms of Poltalloch realised the white dogs would be easier to see in the fields and could be more clearly distinguished from the prey they were chasing. Modern Westies are known to be stubborn and bark a lot, but they are reliably entertaining and are renowned for their love of digging and ability to find their way out of even the tightest of fenced-off gardens.


Scottish Deerhound

THIS huge breed isn’t as readily associated with Scotland as some of the terriers on our list. But it does, in fact, have history in the Highlands that stretches back hundreds of years, when these striking dogs were used by chieftains to help catch stags. Yet, despite being known as the “Royal Dog of Scotland”, the deerhound nearly faced extinction in the 18th century following the collapse of the clan system and the use of guns replacing them in hunts.

A few enthusiasts brought the dog back from the brink, but it is still considered “vulnerable” by The Kennel Club, which deems a breed at risk of disappearing if it has fewer than 300 registrations a year. It had 267 registrations in 2015 but that figure had fallen to just 162 in 2019. This is probably due in part to its large size (almost 3ft tall to the shoulder) and high exercise needs. But deerhounds are gentle and loving dogs that make a wonderful family pet.


Cairn Terrier

ONE of the oldest Scottish breeds, the Cairn has hardly changed in appearance since the 17th century. The breed began life in Skye and the Western Highlands, where Cairn Terriers were used by farmers to chase out vermin – and the dogs still retain that urge to dig and chase. Most famously, it was a Cairn Terrier called Terry that played the role of Toto in The Wizard Of Oz.

Owned by Hollywood dog trainer Carl Spitz, Terry suffered a broken foot during filming of the movie and had to spend a fortnight recuperating at Judy Garland’s home. Garland fell in love with Terry and asked to adopt her but Spitz refused and had Terry appear in several other films before her death in 1945. The dog’s salary for the movie was more than many of the human actors – equivalent to £2,000 a week.


Gordon Setter

THE Gordon Setter, not widely known, comes from the same breed group as Irish and English Setters. They are recognisable for their distinct black-and-tan markings, silky coat and keen nose, with setters being traditionally known for their stealthy, silent hunting.

They were trained to methodically sniff out a bird and then crouch or “set” in front of it to indicate where the prey was located. It was named after Alexander, the 4th Duke of Gordon, who was an advocate of the breed. Like the deerhound, the Gordon Setter is, sadly, on The Kennel Club’s list of vulnerable breeds.