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16 Incredible Scottish Terrier Facts: Origin, Temperament & Popularity

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Scottish terrier puppy posed at the park

Fearless, bold, and all kinds of cute, Scotties are a great choice for a dog fan in the market for a loyal and highly independent pup. Scottish Terriers are a small breed, yet they were brought up to serve as hunters and watchdogs and can stand their ground. Alert, assertive, and wary of strangers, these dogs have the heart of a lion and make for excellent companions.

And did you know that Scotties are favored by presidents and queens across the globe? That’s right: FDR owned a Scottie named Fala. More than that, these dogs are featured in pop culture and deliver amazing performances at prestigious dog shows. Want to learn more about them? Let’s get right to it!

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The 16 Facts About Scottish Terriers

1. Scotties Are Tougher Than Nails

Don’t let the charming eyes, ears, and furnishings fool you: Scottish Terriers are a rough-tough bunch. These dogs are praised for being courageous, spirited guardians that can protect a farm from outside threats. That’s exactly why, back in the 17th century, the First Earl of Dumbarton called them diehards, and the nickname stuck.

This is a compact breed, yet it’s surprisingly brave, protective, and walks like it owns the place. Mostly suspicious toward strangers, Scottish Terriers are territorial dogs and are always ready to run that extra mile for their owners. Sadly, Scotties are also prone to various diseases, allergies, and even cancer. But still, nobody can mess with these adorable protectors!

Playful scottish terrier puppy lying on its back
Image Credit: Harm Kruyshaar, Shutterstock

2. They Were Bred for Vermin Killing

Wild animals are a farmer’s biggest nightmare. When in large numbers, they bring devastation to crops, grain reserves, livestock, and property. Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about that if you have a well-trained and trusted Scottish Terrier to take care of the problem. These buds were specifically bred to hunt, scare away, and eliminate vermin.

On the downside, that means they have a strong prey drive. If you have a cat, hamster, or other tiny beast in the house, think twice before adopting this doggo. Scotties might even act as bullies around some of the smaller dog breeds. The only viable solution to this issue is early socialization. Introduce the Scottie puppy to other domestic animals at a young age; they should get along just fine.

3. Scottish Terriers Rarely Suffer From Separation Anxiety

Most four-legged friends of ours will get a bit anxious and maybe even destructive when left all alone in a big house. However, Scotties aren’t at all clingy and won’t develop separation anxiety if you leave them behind for a couple of hours. This is especially true if you have a strong bond with the pup and it has some toys to play with while you’re taking care of business outside.

And this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Breeders have been training Scottish Terriers to be independent and self-willed. They are used to performing the role of the “man/woman of the house” when the owners leave the farm or property. With that, every single doggo is different, and if you adopted an adult Scottie, it might be a bit less autonomous, depending on its background.

4. These Dogs Create Lifelong Bonds With Their Owners

Scotties are curious, joyful, and happy to spend time with their favorite humans. True, they do take a bit more time to warm up to their owners, but, once that happens, it’s for life. We also want to mention that pups from this breed usually create the strongest bond with one person. If you’re lucky enough to become a Scottish Terrier’s “plus one”, your connection will be unbreakable!

Scottish terrier on walk with owner
Image Credit: Stephm2506, Shutterstock

5. US Presidents Are Fond of Scottish Terriers

Many high-ranking officials in the White House have a soft spot for dogs. And this doesn’t only apply to modern-day governments. For example, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd POTUS, had a well-mannered, obedient, and talented Scottie as his pet. He was pretty great at performing tricks and was often mentioned both by FDR and the first lady.

The dog’s name was Big Boy, but the president changed it to Fala, which was short for Murray the Outlaw of Falahill. The doggo was a Christmas gift for FDR, and it died seven years after the president’s passing. There’s a Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C., and it includes a statue of this lovely pet. Eisenhower and George W. Bush also had pet Scotties (Bush had two).

6. Celebrities and Royalty Love Them Too

As it turns out, American presidents weren’t the only ones who couldn’t resist the overwhelming cuteness of the Scottish Terriers. Victoria, the Queen of the UK, Eva Brown (Hitler’s wife), and Jacqueline Kennedy also loved these fantastic pets. The list also includes Rudyard Kipling (English novelist), Gilbert Chesterton (British writer), and Tatum O’Neal (an American actress).

These are just some of the famous Scottish Terrier owners, of course. As we’ll learn in a moment, in the early 20th century, this breed became incredibly popular not only among the most fortunate ones but also among regular folks in the States and the UK. Blissful, beautiful, and easy to take care of, Scotties are, indeed, an excellent pick for the average dog person.

7. Scotties Are Featured in Many Movies and Cartoons

And let’s not forget about pop culture and the roles played by these dogs in movies, series, shows, and cartoons. Lady and the Tramp has to be one of the most iconic animated romance films to ever be produced, and it included a Scottie dog as one of the characters. We’re talking about Jock, of course, the doggo that was friends with Trusty and the Lady.

Jock reprised his role in the sequel and the 2019 reboot. Another world-famous Disney movie, One Hundred and One Dalmatians, also featured a Scottie. Then there’s the 1943–1961 novel series, “Five Find-Outers and Dog”, and the “Jeeves and Wooster” novels by P. G. Wodehouse, to name a few.

scottish terrier sitting on couch
Image Credit: LaresaPerlman, Pixabay

8. These Dogs Are Tokens in the Board Game Monopoly

Lastly, if you love the game of Monopoly, we bet you’ve noticed that Scottie is a player token in that game. According to Hasbro (the company that bought Monopoly in 1991), this dog is an all-time favorite token. Now this legendary economics-themed game was first introduced to the world in 1935 by the Parker Brothers.

Back then, Scottish Terriers were the talk of the town, which is why it was decided to add them to Monopoly. They did that in the 1950s, and now, almost 90 years later, Scotties are still going strong. In fact, in 2017, this pooch became the most popular token. There’s no telling whether the pup is a boy or a girl, but it’s definitely a Scottie.

9. Scottish Terriers Have Won Eight Westminster Awards

They aren’t only good for looking cute while posing for the camera. Scottish Terriers are widely recognized as one of the most successful dogs in the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Overall, they’ve managed to take home eight awards, which puts them second only to the Wire Fox Terriers. The very first Scottie to win an award was Ch. Tickle Em Jock back in 1911.

10. Scotties Made Their First-Ever Dog Show Appearance in 1860

The history of this breed is covered in mystery and takes us at least several centuries back. And it’s hard to tell exactly when Scottish Terriers were bred. The very first mention of a doggo that sounds like a Scottie was in Don Leslie’s book called The History of Scotland (1436–1561). But it wasn’t until King James VI’s efforts in the early 17th century that these dogs became truly popular.

The Birmingham England Dog Show was the first to break down the various Terriers dogs into distinctive groups, including the Dandie Dinmont Terriers and Skye Terriers. It is believed that the modern-day Scotties are the descendants of these two breeds. Scottish Terriers were first bred in the 1870s, by the way, and had gray or brindle fur, not black.

Scottish terrier being presented by the handler at the dog show.
Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

11. The Mother of All Scotties Is a Female Called Splinter II

The Skye Terriers gave life to three other new breeds, including the Westies (West Highland White Terriers). As for the Scotties, they’ve had many different names over the years, including Diehards, Highlands, and Aberdeen Terriers (that’s what folks in Scotland call them). This is interesting: it is believed that Splinter II, a female doggo owned by Mr. Ludlow, is the mother of all modern Scotties.

Along with two sires, she’s single-handedly responsible for breeding an entire population of Scottish Terriers. She was favored by many breeders in the UK, and instead of mating different dogs to different females, they preferred to use this special female for that. So, best believe your Scottie’s lineage also dates back to Splinter II!

12. The Breed Became Popular in the US During WW1 and WW2

Scottish Terriers are favored by the US population, including presidents and famous people. But when exactly did these pups become popular? Well, let’s start by saying that they were brought to the United States in the 1890s and were recognized by the AKC in 1885. However, the breed didn’t receive much love from the locals until the mid-30s.

The years between the First and the Second World Wars is when Scotties received nationwide recognition. By 1936, these doggos were the third most-favored breed in the US. In 1900, the Scottish Terrier Club of America was founded; 25 years later the standard for this breed was written. The UKC recognized Scottish Terriers in 1934.

13. Scotties Are the Carnegie Mellon University’s Mascot

Established in 1900 as the Carnegie Technical School, today, CMU employs 1.4K faculty members and enrolls 15,000–16,000 students every year. The university has a strong presence on six continents, with the HQ located in Pittsburgh. Over the years, the bright minds at CMU have won 13 Turing Awards, 142 Emmy Awards, and 12 Academy Awards. The list also includes 20 Nobel Prize and 52 Tony Award laureates.

But what does that have to do with Scottish Terriers? Well, in 2007, these dogs became Carnegie Mellon University’s official mascot!

Scotch terrier in glasses reads a books on a white background
Image Credit: Natallia Yaumenenka, Shutterstock

14. They Are Prone to a Unique Condition Called Scotty Cramp

Scotty Cramps is a rare disease that causes spasms in the dog’s legs and prevents it from moving its limbs. This neurological disorder can also lead to hyperextension and hyperflexion. It’s an inherited condition and mostly affects pups that haven’t yet reached one year of age. As for the symptoms, watch out for stiffened rear limbs, an arched lumbar spine, gasping, lack of breath, and even collapse.

Sadly, there are no tried-and-true treatments for this disease. That said, you should be able to help the doggo by changing the environment (making it less stressful for the pet) and “fine-tuning” its behavioral patterns. Most Scottish Terriers experience cramps during extensive exercises and when they get really excited. So, don’t push the dog!

15. Scottish Terriers Are Hypoallergenic

You might not think that by looking at this pup’s lush, trademark coat, but it is, indeed, a low-shedding breed. More than that, it’s a hypoallergenic breed and a great choice for single owners and families that are allergic to dog fur (or, rather, the dander that’s found in between the individual hair strands). As a bonus, these pooches also barely drool.

16. The Fastest Scottie on Record Reached 21.4 MPH

Scottish Terriers aren’t the fastest dogs out there. On average, they can reach a top speed of 15 miles per hour, which is decent for their size. As for the fastest Scottie in history, his name is Vintage Acres Digby Macnugget. This boy managed to reach a steady speed of 21.4 mph in the Fast CAT Invitational. It’s a dog racing trial run by the American Kennel Club and held each year in Orlando, Florida.

This is a relatively short race (100 yards) where dogs have to run as fast as they can to catch a lure.

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Do Scottish Terriers Make Good Pets?

Yes, they make excellent pets for the right owners. If you want to adopt a confident, devoted dog, you won’t be disappointed with the Scottish Terrier. This champ likes to be around humans yet doesn’t fall into depression when left alone. Scotties are sweet and caring, but they’re also happy to take on guarding/watching duties and can easily fend off intruders on the property.

Bred to protect farms and hunt vermin, these dogs are highly adaptive and won’t feel cramped in an apartment. Scottish Terriers tend to be stubborn, though. To turn a pup into a well-behaved, social canine citizen, you’ll need to have a firm hand in training yet praise the pet with positive reinforcement. The above-average prey drive is another minor issue, but it can be fixed via training.

Scottish Terrier Purebred dog at a fall landscape
Image Credit: Tanya Consaul Photography, Shutterstock

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Very few dogs can be as loyal, independent, and persistent as the Scottish Terriers. Add a cute personality, and you’ll see why they’re so popular these days. Scotties are equally great as guardians and hunters and enjoy the calm and tranquil life of a companion pet. They’ve been around for many centuries and have adapted to domestic living.

Plus, as we learned today, Scottish Terriers are hypoallergenic, not at all clingy, and cheerful doggos that are favored by presidents, celebrities, and universities from all over the world. So, if you want to adopt an adorable, funny, faithful, and easy-to-maintain pup with many “hidden talents”, you won’t be disappointed by these lasses and lads from Scotland!

Featured Image Credit: GoDog Photo, Shutterstock

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