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Get to Know the Skye Terrier: One of the Oldest and Rarest Terrier Breeds

The Skye Terrier has been listed as one of Britain's most vulnerable native breeds -- in fact, only 17 were born there in 2013.

Caroline Coile  |  Sep 28th 2015


The Skye Terrier may not look like your prototypical Terrier, what with his long body and draping coat, but he’s one of the older Terrier breeds. And also now one of the rarest.

Skye Terrier by Shutterstock.

Skye Terrier by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Skye Terrier

  • The breed dates at least from the 1500s and originated along the west coast of Scotland, where the dogs hunted fox and otter. The Isle of Skye became especially noted for them.
  • When Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587, a dog was hidden under her skirts. The dog is generally thought to be a Skye Terrier. He is said to have refused to eat and died of a broken heart.
  • Queen Victoria, a great lover and promoter of pure dog breeds, began to breed Skye Terriers in 1840. This greatly popularized the breed among high society. Popularity filtered down to commoners and eventually across the ocean to America.
  • The AKC recognized the Skye Terrier in 1887. The breed never attained the same popularity it had in Europe, and even there its popularity gradually diminished.
  • It is now the 161st most popular AKC breed, down from 138th five years ago.
  • The Skye Terrier has been listed as one of Britain’s most vulnerable native breeds, meaning it is in danger of extinction. In 2013, only 17 Skyes were born in that country, making it far rarer than the panda.
  • Although most Skye Terriers have prick ears, drop ears are equally correct, and both types have been known throughout the breed’s history. In fact, Queen Victoria had both types.
  • In 1969, a Skye Terrier named Champion Glamour Good News won Best in Show at the Westminster dog show.
  • Five Skye Terriers have won the Terrier group at Westminster. The most recent (2015) was Grand Champion Cragsmoor Good Time Charlie, who also won Reserve Best in Show. Charlie won Best in Show at America’s other most prestigious annual show, the AKC Invitational dog show, in 2014.
  • Despite the famous show Skyes, the most famous Skye of them all is Greyfriars Bobby (born in 1856), who slept on his master’s grave for 14 years until his own death. He was buried beside him. A statue of him stands in Edinburgh.
  • Don’t confuse the Skye Terrier with the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, which has curly hair, drop ears, and a slightly arched topline.
  • Skye Terrier owners include Robert Louis Stevenson.

Interested in other breed profiles? Find dozens of them here.

Read recent stories by Caroline Coile:

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 AKC Family Dog. She shares her home with three naughty Salukis and one Jack Russell Terrier