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Get to Know the Scottish Terrier: Die-Hard of the Dog World

The iconic Scotty has endured as one of the most beloved and recognized dogs in history.

Caroline Coile  |  Oct 6th 2014


The Scottish Terrier is the only breed of dog to live in the White House with three different presidential administrations — and the breed’s popularity far exceeded that of these dogs’ (so-called) masters. Well, duh! They’re clearly leadership material. Read on for facts and pictures of this iconic and beloved breed.

More interesting things about the Scottish Terrier

  • The Scottish Terrier may be confused with the Sealyham, Cesky or West Highland White Terriers, but the Scottish Terrier has erect ears and doesn’t come in white, spotted or gray. But he can also come in wheaten (a sort of tan color that can be very light cream) or brindle. Brindles and blacks may have a sprinkling of silver hairs.
  • The breed is affectionately known as the Scottie.
  • Scottish Terriers were used by Highland farmers to catch vermin. They were once grouped with several other breeds under the name Scotch Terrier.
  • In the late 1600s, George Douglas, the first earl of Dumbarton in 1675, kept a pack of terriers from Scotland that he dubbed the “Diehard Pack” because of their toughness. He later named a favorite regiment after his pack! To this day Scotties are sometimes referred to as “Diehards.”

  • Scotch Terriers were divided into Dandie Dinmont and Skye Terriers in the late 19th century, with the present-day Scottish Terriers in the Skye Terrier group. The Skye Terrier group was then divided into Skye and Hard-haired Terriers, with Scotties in the latter. Eventually the Hard-haired Terriers were divided into three breeds, which would become the Scottish, West Highland White and Cairn Terriers.

  • Four individual dogs from the late 19th century are considered the main founders of the modern breed. These dogs were Roger Rough, Tartan, Bon Accord and Splinter II.
  • The breed was initially called the Aberdeen Terrier because of its popularity in that region of northern Scotland.
  • The first Scotties came to America in the early 1890s.
  • They joined the American Kennel Club in 1885, one of the earliest American Kennel Club registered breeds.

  • President Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottie, Fala, was his constant companion and was largely responsible for the breed’s soaring popularity after World War II. She is buried at his side, and is also included next to him at his Washington, D.C., memorial statue.
  • The breed was among the top 10 most popular American Kennel Club breeds in the 1940s, rising to No. 3. It currently ranks 55th, down from 43rd most popular American Kennel Club breed.

  • Scottish Terriers have won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show eight times — the second most of any breed. The most recent Best in Show there was in 2010.
  • The Scottie is one of the most popular pieces on a Monopoly board. It was selected partly because it was so popular at the time the game was created.
  • They are one of the most represented breeds in advertising, jewelry and household decorations. They can be seen in advertising for Black & White whiskey, Radley bags and Chum dog food, among others.

  • The Scottie is the mascot for Carnegie Mellon University and Agnes Scott College.
  • Owners include George W. Bush, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Queen Victoria, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bill Cosby, Humphrey Bogart, Shirley Temple, Joan Crawford, Eva Braun, Bette Davis, Dorothy Lamour, Julie Andrews, Phyllis Diller, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dustin Hoffman, Ida Lupino, John Barrymore, Betty Hutton, Tatum O’Neal, Marlo Thomas, Jane Wyman, Ali MacGraw, Rue McClanahan, Phil Donahue, Sally Struthers, Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling, Ed Whitfield, E.B. White, Dorothy Parker, Lech Kaczynski, and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Do you own a Scottish Terrier? Have you spent time with one? Let’s hear what you think about this fascinating breed in the comments! And if you have a favorite breed you’d like us to write about, let us know that, too!

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About the author: Caroline Coile is the author of 34 dog books, including the top-selling Barron’s Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds. She has written for various publications and is currently a columnist for American Kennel Club Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier.