An Overview of the
Skye Terriers and other breeds c.
|Origin and Introduction
By Donna C. Dale (1990)
Tiptoeing through the
"alligators in the pond" (aka Skye Terriers flat
from nose to tail on the cool tile floor on a hot day), ears
up like antennae, eyes ever watchful of their world, one
reflects on the nature of our favorite friend. What quality
has made the Skye the special friend of a lucky few over so
many years? Is it the steadfast devotion and serious
demeanor of some moments contrasted at another time with the
exuberant greetings lavished upon our return, even if the
absence has been no longer than a trip to the mailbox? This
magnificent and beautiful animal, one moment changing into a
playful clown, moments later stuns, then entertains us and
we are caught in the web.
Dr. Johanne Caius, the court
physician to Edward VI, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I and the
master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University
penned these now familiar words in the 16th Century:
"A cur brought out of
the barbarous borders fro' the uttermost countryes northward
which by reason of length of heare makes show neither of
face nor body."
This description is believed
to be the first written record of the Skye Terrier.
The Skye was developed as a
hunter of otters and fox on the cool and often wet islands
of Colonsay and Skye. Their indefatigable endurance and
hunting skill coupled with their agility, keen senses, and
crisp hard protective coat enabled them to become favored by
the clansmen and gamekeepers of the misty isles. Reportedly
they were the "aristocrats" of the dogs belonging
to the Laird and not kept with the other ordinary hunting
dogs in the cottages, but rather in the homes of the
When Queen Victoria acquired
her first Skye in 1842, the breed received more notice and
was immortalized in at least a half dozen of the paintings
of Landseer that were commissioned by the Queen.
Well-known breeders in
England in the late quarter of the nineteenth century were
Mr. Pratt, Rev. Dr. Rosslyn Bruce (from whom Queen Victoria
acquired Rona II) and Mrs. Hughes (Wolverley). Among Mrs.
Hughes many accomplishments were that she bred Ch. Wolverley
Chummie, reported to be the best Skye "before or
Whether or not a Skye is
owned by royalty makes no difference. One of the Skye's
greatest attributes is his devoted attention to his owner(s)
whatever their station in life. The most famous Skye to
demonstrate this quality of supreme companionship was
Greyfrairs Bobby. When his owner, John Grey, died in 1858,
the Skye remained loyal to his master, guarding his grave
until his own death in 1872 at 16 years of age. So devoted
was this determined Skye that all efforts to provide him
with another home failed, and he was finally given a
permanent license by the Lord Provost of Edinburgh to remain
with his owner's grave. His vigil is immortalized by a
statue, erected by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, outside the gate
of the churchyard at Grayfrairs.
Through the twentieth century
the Skye has been protected and enjoyed by the special
people who have been fortunate enough to be owned by a Skye
Excerpted from The Skye
Terrier Handbook published by the Skye Terrier Club of
The Skye Terrier is distinctive among
the terrier breeds in appearance, personality and temperament. The
description that follows is intended as a brief but informative
introduction to the breed.
The Skye Terrier originated centuries
ago on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Skyes were bred by farmers as
working terriers whose function was to destroy fox, badger and
otter. Their acute scenting abilities and agile, well muscled bodies
enabled them to locate these vermin underground and tear them from
their burrows. The Skye's short, sturdy legs were well suited for
digging, and the double coat served as protection from injury and
bad weather. Originally, the drop eared variety was favored for this
work, but later, in the nineteenth century, the prick eared variety
became more popular as a pet and show dog, partly as a result of
Queen Victoria's fondness for the breed.
The Standard describes the ideal Skye
as long in body with a level topline. A typical specimen should
stand about ten inches at the withers and should be twice his height
in length. The coat is a long, profuse, double-coat (the harsh
textured overcoat covers a wooly undercoat) which is parted from the
dog's nose to his long, feathered tail. The head, held high on a
gently crested neck, is long and strong, with a slight stop. It is
moderately wide at the back of the skull, tapering gradually to the
muzzle, which is slightly full rather than snipey. The jaws are
strong, with the incisor teeth closing even or the the upper teeth
slightly overlapping the lower. The dark eyes are closely set, of
medium size, and alight with life and intelligence. The eyes are
veiled by the softer hair of the head.
The two varieties of the breed, the
drop ear and the prick ear, differ only in ear carriage. Both types
of ears are well feathered. Prick ears are of medium size, identical
in carriage, set high on the skull, and erect at the outer edges.
Drop ears are somewhat larger and set lower. They lye flat against
the skull and are identical, with no backward fold.
The legs of the forequarters are
strong, muscular and as straight as soundness and depth of chest
will allow. The forearms curve slightly around the chest, with the
elbows close to the sides, neither loose nor tied. The shoulder
blades are well laid back and are tightly placed at the withers.
Skyes have hare feet pointing forward, with thick pads and strong
black nails. His hindquarters are strong, full and well developed.
The legs are short, muscular, moderately angulated and straight when
viewed from behind. The tail, thrown back in a moderate arc, without
twist or curl, should not be raised above the topline except
temporarily, when the dog is excited. The breed's colors range from
black to platinum, with all shades of gray in between, as well as
cream and fawn. All with dark hair on the muzzle, ears, and tail,
The Skye Terrier has stamina,
strength and courage. He is fearless, good tempered, loyal and
sensitive. A Skye is friendly and happy with those people he knows,
but he is reserved and cautious with strangers. The Skye is not a
breed for everyone; his characteristic temperament must be
understood. He is sensitive but not submissive and has a mind of his
own. The confidence, respect and love of a Skye must be deserved. He
will please only those for whom he has high regard, and he will be
selective as to whom he will give his deep affection. The loyalty
and devotion of a Skye, however, is unsurpassed by any other breed.
He is a delightful companion and alert protector of home and master.
Buying A Puppy
When selecting a puppy it is
advisable to buy from a reliable established hobby-breeder; one who
raises show stock. Avoid casual breeders, pet shops and commercial
breeders. If the buyer is a novice, someone familiar with the breed
would be helpful to assist in making a choice. Temperament is a most
important qualification. Do not consider a shy puppy; pick one that
has a happy, outgoing personality. Equally important is health.
Puppies who are thin, ungroomed or potbellied have not received good
care. Make sure that the dates of wormings and shots as well as the
pedigree and litter registrations are all in order. If the breeder
considers the puppy pet quality (not to be shown or bred), AKC
registration papers may be withheld with written consent of the
buyer or AKC limited registration may be provided.
Buying show or breeding stock under
eight months of age can be a gamble. Skyes are very slow in
developing, reaching maturity at about three years of age. Correct
ear carriage and mouths can be especially difficult to determine
before five or six months. Both types of ear carriage may appear in
the same litter. Prick ears, if up by six months of age, usually
remain so. Overshot or undershot mouths are a serious fault;
however, a slightly overshot bite of the puppy teeth might correct
itself when the permanent teeth come in. Look for a long body;
short, sturdy legs, a tail not carried constantly above the topline;
good length of head, neck and muzzle in proportion to the overall
dog; dark eyes; and a double coat. Between three and five months
there might be an abundance of soft puppy coat, but eventually there
should be the beginnings of a straight overcoat growing out which on
maturity will cover the undercoat. A coat that is predominately
fluffy or curly is a major fault.
A Skye puppy requires love and firm,
intelligent training; otherwise he may become difficult to manage as
an adult. He must be persuaded to obey, but never by abuse. Regular
grooming sessions and nail trimming must be conducted with patience
and should be of short duration until the routine has been
completely established. House, lead, and ring training should be
conducted in the same manner.
A Skye becomes greatly attached to
his owner. Adjustment to a new owner and home may be difficult and
slow. He will probably take considerably longer to adapt than the
members of the more gregarious breed. A Skye usually prefers to make
his own advances and may resist being petted, picked up, or groomed
by one whom he considers a stranger. Until he has settled and
accepted his new environment, it is better to ignore him for the
first week, tending only to his immediate needs of food and
exercise. A quiet atmosphere and talking to him in a low voice is
recommended. Skyes are fine with children if they are raised with
them; if an adult Skye is unaccustomed to children, they may create
an upsetting experience for the dog. The introduction should not be
forced on the part of either. The dog will not tolerate being rushed
Males in particular resist being
manhandled, pushed around or urged to accept situations they fail to
understand. If there is an understanding of his temperament, the dog
will gradually seek attention, and in time, affection.
What to Expect From a Skye Breeder
The breeder should complete, sign,
and place in your hands the puppy's AKC registration application
which should be signed and sent to the American Kennel Club so that
your Skye may be properly registered. The AKC papers are as much a
part of your new Skye as his skin and are not for sale separately.
The breeder should also furnish you with a four generation pedigree
of your Skye.
The breeder should furnish you with a
complete health record on your individual dog. It should show his
inoculations for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis and parvo virus
and the manufacturer of the sera used, along with a record of any
worming procedures. It is important that the breeder verify in
writing that your puppy is healthy. Once he is yours, it is up to
you, with the aid of a competent veterinarian, to keep him that way.
The breeder should provide a contract
of understanding which protects your Skye and future generations.
Samples of recommended contracts are available from the Skye Terrier
Club of America.
What Your Skye Puppy Should Expect
That you provide a safe, enclosed
area for his exercise or plan to exercise him on leash at regular
intervals during the day.
That you set the rules of your home
for him with kindness and patience. He does not need constant
attention but will need your love and understanding.
That he receive regular veterinarian
care, a nutritious diet and correct coat care. Your puppy's breeder
will be glad to assist you with learning how to groom your Skye.
Copyright The Skye Terrier Club of
Visit the American Kennel Club
web site for more information: